Article by Bruce Barcott, Leafly
Numerous reports out of San Francisco are confirming the passing of Dennis Peron, 72, the legendary cannabis activist who kindled America’s medical marijuana revolution in the 1980s.
Peron’s brother, Jeffrey Peron, posted this on his Facebook page earlier this afternoon:
“Changed the world” is a phrase entirely befitting the life of Dennis Peron.
As a leading figure in San Francisco’s gay culture and cannabis underground in the 1970s and 1980s, Peron was one of the first to realize the health benefits cannabis offered to those battling AIDS in the heart of the crisis that overtook that city in the late 1980s.
Working with other local leaders like Mary Jane Rathbun (“Brownie Mary”) and Dr. Donald Abrams, Peron helped pass an ordinance legalizing medical cannabis in the city of San Francisco, then took the movement statewide with the 1996 passage of Proposition 215, the nation’s first statewide medical marijuana legalization law.
Peron and his husband, John Entwistle, continued to be active in the life of San Francisco over the past 30 years.
Until recently, their bed-and-breakfast “Castro Castle” on the edge of the city’s famous gay neighborhood welcomed all travelers, with day-glow decorated rooms that allowed visitors to enjoy an authentic taste of the city’s psychedelic culture. A painted mural on a garden wall memorialized Harvey Milk, the late San Francisco city supervisor who counted Peron as a close friend and early political supporter.
The Bronx-born Peron grew up on Long Island in a middle class family. “I looked the same as everyone else,” he told me in a 2014 interview at his home in San Francisco. “I fit in like everyone else. But I just knew I wasn’t that person. Number one, I was gay. I knew I had to hide. Somehow I had to hide. I was a good actor. A good hider.”
That early acquired skill served him well later, he said, when he needed to hide both his sexual identity and his cannabis consumption. “Two for one!” he said.
Peron was drafted in 1966, and served in the Air Force in Vietnam. That’s where he first encountered cannabis. “The people there catered to the GIs. We were a market for them.”
Peron returned stateside with two pounds of cannabis in his gear. “I came back and kissed the ground. I was so happy—partly because I had two pounds with me. That started a career that would span 40 years.”