In memoriam – Dennis Peron, the father of medical marijuana

© John Gellman

My family spent several days in San Francisco in the summer of 2007. I called my San Francisco relatives and asked them where to stay. They told me they knew a very nice guy who volunteered with them at a soup kitchen and owned a guest house called the Castro Castle. So we called the guy and stayed there. He was Dennis Peron.

I had no idea who he was. I didn’t know that he was considered the father of medical marijuana in San Francisco, and thus California, and thus the United States. He opened and ran the first public marijuana dispensary in the country. He co-wrote California’s Proposition 215, which became the first statewide medical marijuana law. He was on the cover of High Times magazine. He was a very prominent gay rights and AIDS activist who was part of Harvey Milk’s group of close friends and associates. It was an honor to meet him and stay at his place. He was the most interesting guy in San Francisco. Dennis was such a nice man, and his guest house was a unique piece of the psychedelic sixties in the present day. There was a miniature Golden Gate Bridge in his back yard surrounded by lots of large, healthy marijuana plants among all kinds of cool stuff. We ate great Chinese take-out around his kitchen table with Dennis and Cleve Jones. We loved it there. My whole family was enchanted by Dennis.

Dennis Peron passed away Saturday afternoon at the age of 71 in a San Francisco hospital; the result of lung cancer. He made a difference. He will be missed. Read his New York Times obituary HERE.

I took these pics of Dennis in front of his Castro Castle on a nice summer day in 2007.

© John Gellman

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