If you have your medical marijuana card, then you have Dennis Peron to thank for that. The California activist was the first to advocate the use of cannabis for AIDS patients and helped legalize medical marijuana in California. Sadly, Peron succumbed to cancer in January 2018.
The 72-year-old is heavily responsible for a San Francisco ordinance allowing medical marijuana. The ordinance later played a role in the passage of Proposition 215 that legalized medical pot in all of California in 1996.
When the AIDS crisis enveloped San Francisco, it was Peron who advocated for the medicinal benefits of cannabis in patients. The political battle was personal for Peron, who lost his partner to the disease in 1990.
He said of his longtime love:
“I came to San Francisco to find love and to change the world. I found love, only to lose him through AIDS. We changed the world.”
Last year, Peron, who was suffering from lung cancer at the time, was recognized by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, with one supervisor dubbing him “the father of medical marijuana.”
While weed helped Peron’s partner cope with the ravages of AIDS, it helped Peron stay sober after many years of alcoholism. The fight to legalize weed was a deeply personal one for the activist. 
The compassionate Vietnam War veteran lived out his last years on a farm in Lake County, where he grew and gave away medical marijuana.
After his stint in the Air Force, Peron moved to a commune in San Francisco, a popular trend at the time, where he met and befriended Supervisor Harvey Milk, and started selling pot.
Peron founded the first public cannabis dispensary in the U.S. in 1991, at a time when the war on drugs was in full throttle. In 1992, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution urging the police and district attorney to minimize their attention to and prosecution of those growing or possessing marijuana for medical purposes.  
He and a friend distributed marijuana to AIDS patients, and Peron paid dearly for his caring work.
He was arrested a number of times, and was even shot in the leg by an undercover cop who busted him for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana that technically belonged to his partner. 
At his trial 6 months later, Peron’s partner testified that the cannabis was his, and Peron was let off the hook.
When a judge finally shut down Peron’s dispensary, it had 9,000 patients on the books. 
Terrance Alan, a member of the city’s Cannabis Commission, said:
“The city and the country [have] lost a cannabis leader who lived life on the edge. He lived his whole life on the edge, and that’s what allowed us to lead in cannabis.”
Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of the pro-legalization organization California Norml, said:
“No person is more responsible for the legalization of medical marijuana than Dennis. He was in the right place, at the right time as a gay rights leader at the time of the AIDS epidemic; he had the right experience as a pot dealer, the gumption to go ahead and do it and the trust of the people of San Francisco, who respected his efforts.”
Thanks, Dennis, for clearing a path for those suffering from pain and a multitude of other conditions to access one of nature’s most versatile medicines without fear of prosecution.
Featured image source: High Times