Portland NORML News - Sunday, December 28, 1997

Activist's Tactics Anger Many in Medical Marijuana Movement (Some
California Cannabis Clubs Distance Themselves From Dennis Peron,
Co-author Of Proposition 215, In Reaction To Judicial Shut-Down Order)

Date: Sun, 28 Dec 1997 10:56:39 EST
From: Jim Rosenfield 
To: Multiple recipients of list 
Subject: art/lat: Peron's Tactics Anger Many in Medical Marijuana

Newshawk: Jim Rosenfield
Source: Los Angeles Times
Author: MARY CURTIUS, Times Staff Writer
Pubdate: December 28, 1997
Contact: letters@latimes.com
Fax: 213-237-4712

Activist's Tactics Anger Many in Medical Marijuana Movement

Treatment: Dennis Peron's provocative style fuels legal battles
that threaten sick people's right to get the drug, other pot providers say.

SAN FRANCISCO - Nibbling Christmas cookies in his Cannabis
Cultivators Club, marijuana guru Dennis Peron says he can't understand
why he has become a pariah in the medical marijuana movement he helped to

"It was my behavior that started this," the white-haired Peron says
indignantly. "Now they are telling me, 'You've got to go away.' "

Those wishing Peron would go away--or at least adopt a lower
profile--are founders of some of the nearly 20 clubs now selling
medical marijuana to patients in more than half a dozen California
counties. They say that Peron's provocative style and the kind of club
he runs have fueled the legal battle that is endangering them all.

"We've had to pay a high price all along for the circus-like
atmosphere in San Francisco," said Scott Imler, director of the Los
Angeles Cannabis Resource Center in West Hollywood. "Dennis
goes marching off on his way of folly, making [bad] law every step of
the way, and everybody else has to just lump it. It's incredibly
frustrating to all of us."

A state appellate court ruling earlier this month is the immediate
trigger for the anger toward Peron. The court ruled that Proposition
215--the medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November
1996--did not make cannabis clubs legal.

State Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren's office says the ruling means that
Peron must shut his doors by Jan. 12, when the decision goes into

What frightens other club operators is that Lungren is insisting
that the ruling applies to the rest of the state's clubs.

"We read this decision as saying that cannabis clubs are no longer
legal in the state," said Lungren spokesman Matt Ross. "We will
advise district attorneys and law enforcement officials of each county
of that."

But other club operators say their lawyers tell them that the ruling
applies only to Peron's club, which is unique.

The appellate ruling grew out of an injunction Lungren obtained to
shut down Peron's club in August 1996. A Superior Court judge lifted
the injunction after Proposition 215 passed, ruling that the new law
allowed clubs to serve as "primary caregivers" and sell medical
marijuana on a nonprofit basis.

When the injunction was lifted, Peron reopened his club, and it
now serves about 8,000 clients near San Francisco's Civic Center in a
five-story, 30,000-square-foot building decorated in what has been
described as "high crash pad." The club opened in 1994.

Thousands of colorful origami birds dangle from mobiles on each
floor. The music of choice is hard rock. The blinking lights of two
Christmas trees seem timid compared to the bold green colors of
jungle murals that cover the walls.

Dozens of people can be found toking up most days, and the air is
always thick with the unmistakable smell of marijuana. The club sells
about 50 pounds of marijuana a week, some from its basement
cultivation project, most from growers in Northern California whom
Peron contracts with to grow various grades of marijuana.

On Dec. 12, the appellate court found that only individuals who
are consistently responsible for a patient are primary caregivers,
rejecting Peron's argument that his club qualifies as the primary
caregiver for medical marijuana users who so designate it.

Club operators point out that although Peron has butted heads
with Lungren and drug officers, their much smaller facilities are
operating quietly in communities as conservative as San Jose and
Thousand Oaks. Medical marijuana distributors in those cities say
they cooperate with local police and elected officials and run
operations that feel more like clinics than clubs.

"We're literally a doctor's office with a pharmacy," said Peter
Baez, executive director of the Santa Clara County Medical Cannabis
Center in San Jose.

San Jose passed an ordinance several months ago regulating the
operation of the cannabis center. A San Jose police officer inspects
the facility regularly.

Unlike Peron's club, the San Jose facility allows no smoking on its
premises, Baez said.

"Patients register with our secretary, she pulls their file and walks
them to the back office," he said.

"They choose from a board what we have available and we
attach an Rx label to the bag." All records are made available for
police inspection.

* * *

"We've turned over three attempted forgeries of prescriptions to
the district attorney for prosecution," Baez said. One source of
friction between the center and local authorities, Baez said, is a city
requirement that the marijuana the club sells be grown at the center,
to avoid clashing with federal laws prohibiting the transport of

The center's landlord has forbidden such cultivation, he said, and
the center is too small to grow enough plants anyway. So Baez
continues to buy street marijuana, sometimes from Peron, to supply
his 225 patients.

Baez says that he too worries that Peron's operation is causing
trouble for everyone.

"It does hurt the effort," Baez said. "Every time a news crew does
a story on us, they always have clips of San Francisco, showing a
bunch of weird-looking people smoking dope. My stomach cringes."

Peron makes no apologies. A Vietnam veteran, Peron for years
was the dope dealer of choice for San Francisco's gay community.

He lost a lover to AIDS and said he came up with the idea of a
cannabis club six years ago, while serving a sentence for felony
possession of marijuana he said he bought to ease his dying lover's

"Jonathan was covered with sores and was a pariah before he
died," Peron said. "I dreamed of building a place where people like
Jonathan would feel welcomed, would feel accepted."

In liberal San Francisco, hit hard by the AIDS epidemic, Peron's
club was embraced by city officials when it opened.

Both AIDS patients and cancer patients say that marijuana eases
nausea caused by their drug regimens and helps them keep their
appetites. Others say the drug can prevent epileptic seizures, ease
headaches and control spasms.

Peron, who insists that "all marijuana use is medical" and says that
smoking it helps him control alcoholism, has vowed to appeal the 1st
District Court's ruling to the state Supreme Court.

He says that state drug officials will have to drag him and the
club's patrons out if the Supreme Court rules against the cannabis

"There is a deeper issue here, of who we are and where we are
going," Peron said. "Do we have a say in America or not?"

Peron is not alone in his frustration at the way state and federal
officials have reacted to passage of Proposition 215, the first state
initiative in the nation legalizing marijuana.

On the federal level, the Drug Enforcement Administration has
threatened doctors who might prescribe the drug. On the state level,
Lungren keeps a running count of prosecutions brought for
possession or sale of marijuana where the defense has cited
Proposition 215.

Local government officials complain that although the state is
quick to say what is not allowed under Proposition 215, they have
gotten no guidance on how to legally implement the law.

In San Mateo County, Supervisor Mike Nevin, a retired San
Francisco police officer, has proposed that the county get into the
business of supplying medical marijuana.

"It is clear that we need some state direction in getting marijuana
to the sick and the dying," Nevin said. "We need to be sensitive and
figure out a way to carry out Proposition 215. I understand what the
appellate court is saying about cannabis clubs," he said.

* * *

"But that decision still leaves us with the dilemma of how to carry
out the spirit of 215, with how to deal with the problem of cultivation
and distribution."

Nevin's solution? San Mateo should hand over the marijuana it
confiscates from street dealers to county pharmacists and let them
supply to anyone with a doctor's recommendation. It is a proposal
that sparked some interest from Lungren before the appellate court
ruling came down.

"The program that I am suggesting would take the whole profit
motive out of this," Nevin said. "It would limit distribution to the very,
very sick. It takes away the whole underground, seedy aspect."

Nevin met once with Lungren to discuss his proposal, which has
won informal backing from his colleagues on the Board of
Supervisors, who formed a committee to study it.

He said he has promised Lungren that the county would couple
the plan with an aggressive anti-drug education effort in the county's

"My police experience gave me a practical aspect to life," Nevin
said. "You've got a law on the books that says that marijuana is legal
for medicinal purposes. But there is no leadership."

Lungren vigorously opposed Proposition 215 during the campaign
and has repeatedly said that voters didn't know what they were
voting for. Since the election, the attorney general has taken the
position that it is up to each county to decide on implementation of the
initiative, said Ross, the Lungren spokesman.

Across the state, the county-by-county response to Proposition
215 has varied wildly.

In Orange County, one volunteer at the county's only cannabis
club is in jail, facing felony charges for possession and sale of
marijuana. The club operates on an ad hoc basis, meeting patients in
restaurants or at their homes to avoid local authorities.

* * *

In Thousands Oaks, city officials recently agreed to let a club
operate out of a shopping mall.

"There's just a lot of confusion out there," Baez said. "It is a
nerve-racking situation."

"Where there is a little more need and a little more tolerance, the
providers have felt comfortable coming out and being public with
what they are doing," said Dave Fratello, spokesman for Americans
for Medical Rights, a group campaigning for passage of state laws
legalizing medical marijuana.

Fratello said his group anticipates four election battles in 1998--in
Maine, Alaska, the District of Columbia and Colorado--in the push to
legalize medical marijuana.

Ultimately, he said, the goal is to change federal laws to reclassify
marijuana as a legal drug. It is in that nationwide effort, Fratello says,
that Peron's in-your-face style hurts.

"Many people consider him to be the prophet of the movement,"
he said.

"Dennis is a revolutionary, and more power to him. But most clubs
run screaming from that image. Most are nonsmoking facilities.
That's because in most cases, we're talking about an emergency
service for real patients in need and there is no time for a revolution."

Copyright Los Angeles Times

The Year In Review - Medical Marijuana
('Orange County Register' Editorial On 11362.5)

Subj: US CA: The Year In Review Medical Marijuana 
From: John W. Black 
Date: Fri, 02 Jan 1998 18:50:48 -0500
Source: Orange County Register 
Contact: letters@link.freedom.com 
Pubdate: 28 Dec 97


Last year California voters, by passing Proposition 215, made it clear that
they want marijuana, when used for medical purposes under the supervision
of a doctor, to be removed from the criminal arena - although most voters
are not interested in across-the-board legalization. During 1997,
implementation of the mandate was shakey. The year began with federal
officials hinting they might pull the licenses of doctors who recommended
marijuana for their patients, but they backed off, reinforced by a federal
court decision.

In California, several cannabis clubs continued to dispense marijuana, but
their ability to do so legally was called into question by a 1st District
Court of Appeals decision Dec. 12 that reinstated an injunction that shut
down the Cannabis Buyers' Club in San Francisco. Most observers, led by
Attorney General Dan Lungren, interpreted the decision as reaffirming state
law that prohibits anyone, even a non-profit organization, from selling
marijuana or possessing it for sale.

If that's the case, however, the result in practice will be that medical
patients with a doctor's recommendation will be able to possess marijuana
legally, but will only be able to obtain it on the black market, unless
they grow it themselves. Thus the black market will be reinforced. The
voters, perhaps relying on a clause in the initiative declaring one purpose
to be "to encourage the federal and state governments to implement a plan
to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all
patients in medical need," thought they were voting for a small scale legal
"white market" in medical marijuana.

A few localities have made efforts. The city of Arcata came up with a
detailed plan that could easily be adopted or adapted by other cities. San
Mateo flirted with the idea of distributing pot confiscated in drug busts,
and one Northern California city discussed the idea of using a vacant lot
behind the police station to do it. Santa Ana is having the issue thrust in
its face through prosecution of people involved with a cannabis buyers' club.

A closer reading of the 1st District's decision shows the court virtually
invited local governments to come up with safe and legal distribution plans
and delineated several criteria that would have to be met. Next year, then,
the ball will be in the hands of local governments.




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