Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA) 
Pubdate: Sat, 30 May 1998
Author: Ken Garcia


His Fantasy Was To Ride His Cause To Governorship

So Dennis Peron no longer gets to play ringmaster in his smoke-filled
circus tent. At least now he'll be able to concentrate on his next job --
after he wins the Republican nomination for governor Tuesday. You've got to
give Peron credit. Most people might back down when the president, the
Justice Department, the state attorney general and almost every cop and
court within 500 miles starts telling you to pack your baggies. But Peron
just puffed and he puffed until the whole house blew down. The end came
quietly this week, as sheriff's deputies conducted a holiday morning raid
at Peron's aromatic headquarters on Market Street. Well, relatively
quietly, anyway. Peron was running around screaming about the injustice of
it all. He promised to reinvent the club. He said it would ascend like a
phoenix, appropriately enough, out of the ashtray.

Don't bet on it. Peron deserves credit for raising the public consciousness
about the need for medicinal marijuana, and for being a relentless advocate
for decriminalization of a personal vice. But along the way he fell in love
with the spotlight and has burned almost every bridge he's crossed, making
it tougher for every other legitimate pot club to carry on its business.

Peron had to work hard at it, because he had the backing of his own city's
district attorney, the sheriff and a number of other elected officials.

But his refusal to clean up his act after repeated run-ins with the law
leaves him today as just another run-of-the-mill pot-smoking GOP candidate
- -- and approximately 9,000 people with medical problems in San Francisco
looking for a place to score.

He flaunted his own club's borderline legality, refusing to file for a
business license or to pay taxes, suggesting that his operation was based
on a doctrine of civil disobedience. And he paid little heed to the claims
that people without medical prescriptions were lining up outside his shop
to get their hands on some Maui Wowie or Humboldt Green -- emerging ever

In this case, it's appropriate to ask what he was smoking.

Because anybody who ever went by his club could have told you that young
skateboarders and the city's frenetic gutter punks did not exactly meet the
description laid out under the law of people with dire medical conditions.
``There were drug deals on the streets, kids crowding the sidewalk,
congregations of homeless people. . . . It was a zoo,'' said one nearby
business owner. ``After we began complaining, they'd clean it up for a day
and then it would revert to business as usual.

We all support the premise of the club, but it was never run properly -- or
legally.'' That never seemed to matter much to Peron -- at least until the
state and federal authorities began closing in. But it certainly mattered
to other pot clubs around the Bay Area that began feeling the heat because
Peron saw himself as a martyr unaffected by the law. When a judge ordered
the San Francisco Cannabis Cultivators Club shut down, he said fine, we'll
just give it another name. When he became the target of most of the court
orders, he said no problem, I'll just pick a 79-year-old pot-smoker as the
new director.

And when police and judicial authorities began scrutinizing other pot club
operations because of his legal problems, he played the part of defenseless

Peron's GOP gubernatorial rival, Attorney General Dan Lungren, certainly
deserves his share of the blame. Lungren blithely ignored the will of the
voters by cracking down on pot clubs -- singling out Peron -- and then
preened before the assembled media.

And one can only hope the Justice Department has more important matters to
tangle with than trying to exert its heavy-handed will on issues best left
to state and local authorities. But Peron's bullheadedness did not serve
him well at a time he should have been trying to fulfill his self-sworn
duty to make marijuana available to thousands of people with HIV, glaucoma
and other serious medical problems.

And why would anyone lock horns with the state and federal judiciary?

This falls under the category: Why do you think they call it dope? So now
the city is faced with coming up with a way to distribute pot to those
people -- a scary thought in itself.

District Attorney Terence Hallinan said it might be possible for the city
to begin growing its own pot, which would no doubt give national newspapers
like the Wall Street Journal another reason to brush up their annual ``only
in Sin City'' stories.

Peron clearly did the right thing for a majority of Californians who
support the cultivation and distribution of medicinal marijuana.

He just took the wrong path along the way. Maybe he'll get back on track in

Copyright 1998 San Francisco Chronicle 
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Checked-by: Richard Lake