Dennis Peron: Gay, Pacifist, Pot Dealer ... and American Hero
My story today comes from High Times: “‘Cannabis Buyers Club’ Documentary Featured at Tribeca Film Festival”
Trigger warning for the trolls in the basement: There’s some language in my story that you are not gonna like. Warm up your thumbs, ladies, here it comes.
I grew up in a super square Connecticut community where every single person looked like some version of me. Different tennis rackets or number of freckles on our perfect noses, but pretty much all the same. In case you think I’m kidding, they filmed the original “Stepford Wives” in my hometown.
Somehow in my long meander across the country, I ended up in Los Angeles, and part of the cannabis community which fills my heart and keeps my three kids in college, yet their dear sweet 85-year-old grandmother won’t even say the word for what I do for a living. Old habits die hard.
So I’m certain Mom won’t be going to New York City to see the new film called “Cannabis Buyers Club”, which made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Cannabis Buyers Club is the story of pot dealer, cannabis reform leader and queer rights activist Dennis Peron.”
THE DEEPER DIVE
The synopsis of the film reads:
“Cannabis Buyers Club chronicles the most important unknown LGBTQ+ rights struggle of the 20th century. When a new disease ravages his community and the government doesn’t care, renegade pot dealer Dennis Peron leads a movement to help, heal, and fight back. Peron, a gay Vietnam vet, builds a pot empire in the middle of the war on drugs and fights politicians and police to save his friends. It’s the definitive story of cannabis legalization in America.”
The true story of Denis Peron, as chronicled in this documentary, is that Peron was a pacifist… - ha! Some pacifist, he took on the whole world! … but during the Vietnam war he was drafted anyway. And on an R&R trip to Thailand, “… five or six pounds of some of the best cannabis in the world” came into his possession. He was assigned to the mail room after returning to his unit, where he began sending weed back to the United States hidden in cassette tape cases. Stateside, he settled in San Francisco, and set up an economic exchange business… OK, he sold pot.
“His involvement in the community and political activism put Peron at the front of the effort to legalize weed in San Francisco, where he counted Harvey Milk among his many allies. Selling pot from storefronts in the Castro, Peron’s will to champion cannabis policy reform was galvanized by the AIDS epidemic, which took the lives of his partner and countless others and left his friends and neighbors wasting away. Cannabis stimulated patients’ appetites and helped keep from losing weight, prolonging their lives.
"In the early 90s, Peron founded the Cannabis Buyers Club, giving patients and their caregivers a safe place to obtain the medicine they needed. In 1996, he co-authored Proposition 215, the landmark ballot measure that legalized the medical use of cannabis in California, and started the revolution that continues today."
A peaceful revolution, not like murderous baby headed thugs on January 6th.
“These events could only have happened in San Francisco, which stars in this film alongside Dennis and other colorful characters: Brownie Mary, Tony Sera, Joe Banon, Greg Corrales. It was the perfect political storm where the AIDS crisis crashed into the drug war and a liberal city fought against a conservative state and won. Precedents were set in justice, the repercussions of which are still felt today, with new states legalizing cannabis every year.”
THE LAST WORD
Back in Denis Peron’s day, in my hometown, people would have called him a pacifist long-haired hippy fag.
Maybe now they’ll give him the title he deserves: American Hero.
Image Source: Tribeca Film Festival