Episode 61 – How New York and New Jersey Are Legalizing Marijuana with Evan Nison

Activist and entrepreneur Evan Nison speaks with hosts Jordan Wellington and Andrew Livingston about how their home state of New Jersey as well as New York as legalizing marijuana, as well as some of the work he’s done and is doing through his PR company NisonCo. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Wednesday April 14, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Wednesday, April 14, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Longtime cannabis reform activist Steve Fox dies (Marijuana Business Daily)

** GoFundMe- Support the family of Steve Fox. **

// Biden picks former New Jersey attorney general to lead DEA (Washington Post)

// Illinois Gets More Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than Alcohol State Says (Marijuana Moment)


These headlines are brought to you by Agilent, a Fortune 500 company known for providing top-notch testing solutions to cannabis and hemp testing labs worldwide. Are you considering testing your cannabis in-house for potency? Agilent is giving away a FREE 1260 HPLC system for one year! If you are a Cultivator, processor, or cannabis testing lab you may qualify for this giveaway. Open up bitly.com/cannabis-contest to answer a few quick questions to enter to win!


// Medical Cannabis in Mississippi Faces Constitutional Challenge (Bloomberg Government)

// NJ Cannabis Commission Gets Going Picks Vice Chair Logo (NBC 4 New York)

// urban-gro Pre-Announces Q1 Revenue in Excess of $11.8 Million (New Cannabis Ventures)

// Aphria Stock Slammed On Dismal Third Quarter (Green Market Report)

// Organigram Q2 Revenue Slides 24% Sequentially to C$14.6 Million (New Cannabis Ventures)

// Colorado Marijuana Sales Reached $167 Million In February (Marijuana Moment (Center Square))

// Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Sails Through Fifth Committee, With Floor Vote Expected Next Month (Marijuana Moment)

Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

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Photo: Boston Globe

Cannabis or marijuana, medicinal plant or medical program?

Language has been used to control populations for centuries. Slang and derogatory words have been twisted to offend entire cultures. One of these terms was marijuana used to criminalize cannabis. Thankfully, the plant (cannabis or marijuana) regained some medical traction several decades later, but is cannabis not medicinal? “…medical marihuana defines varying programs…” Propaganda against cannabis or marijuana openly […]

The post Cannabis or marijuana, medicinal plant or medical program? appeared first on Latest Cannabis News Today – Headlines, Videos & Stocks.

We Wouldn’t Have Legal Weed Without These LGBTQ Activists

By Tyler Koslow

If you wander past the neon green cross symbol into a marijuana dispensary today, it’s likely you’ll see a wide array of cannabis products, generous budtenders quick to talk favorite strains, and an altogether feel-good environment. 

But the modern dispensary is in harsh juxtaposition with America’s first-ever public cannabis dispensary. When the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club opened in 1992 out of a small apartment in the Castro District, the somber setting was one of grave desperation rather than celebration. And we wouldn’t have the marijuana legalization we have today if it wasn’t for a group of activists who helped spark the legal marijuana movement amid an AIDS epidemic that wreaked havoc among LGBTQ and communities of color across the United States in the 1980s and ’90s.

The role that the LGBTQ community played in getting medical marijuana legalized in California is important to share. It’s a story of iconic activists who dedicated their lives to advocating for the medical potential of cannabis and fought for the passage of Proposition 215.  

It’s impossible to dive into the history of Proposition 215 and marijuana legalization without beginning with Dennis Peron, a gay man widely regarded as the “father of medical marijuana.” Peron died of lung cancer on Jan. 27, 2018, but his legacy as a cannabis and gay rights activist is well-documented and celebrated in both communities. 

The Father of Medical Marijuana 

A Bronx, New York-born Vietnam War veteran, Peron relocated to the Castro District in 1969, a historically gay neighborhood in San Francisco, after completing his stint with the United States Air Force. His initial foray with activism was as a “yippie,” a term used for radical members of the Youth International Party, is detailed in Brian Applegarth’s short documentary, “The Secret Story: How Medical Cannabis Was Re-Legalized in the US.” 

In a conversation with Weedmaps News, cannabis activist and Peron’s spouse, John Entwistle Jr., spoke about Peron’s pivotal role in the election of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, and his background as a renowned cannabis activist long before the medical benefits of the plant were recognized. 

Peron detailed to KNTV, the San Francisco Bay Area NBC affiliate,” in a feature called “Bay Area Revelations” how in the late 1970s, Peron opened the Big Top Pot Supermarket on the top two floors of a Victorian house in the Castro District, where he illegally sold cannabis to thousands of San Francisco residents. During this time, Peron became known by local law enforcement and was even shot in the leg by an undercover officer during a raid in 1978, landing him three months in the hospital and another three months in jail. 

In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic swept through the U.S., especially ravaging the gay communities in San Francisco. Originally thought to only spread among gay men, President Ronald Reagan’s administration was reluctant to act due to the adminstrations conservatism and homophobia, according to “And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic,” Randy Shilts’ book on the history of AIDS epidemic. Reagan didn’t publicly say the word “AIDS” until 1986; the disease had already claimed the lives of more than 16,000 people by then. It was the sudden onset of this devastating and fatal disease that caused Peron to shift his cannabis activism lens from a focus on civil rights to one of compassion.

“At this point, Harvey Milk had been killed and then the AIDS epidemic came, so everyone is doing caregiving and caretaking for those around who need it,” Entwistle said. “Dennis was still dealing and still doing his thing, but the main focus was the AIDS epidemic. The whole community was focused on collectively staying healthy and taking care of those who needed it.” 

One of the detrimental effects of AIDS was wasting syndrome, or cachexia, which causes unintended rapid weight loss, as well as weakness, fever, and diarrhea. During the earliest days of the epidemic, people suffering from AIDS had no readily accessible medication or therapeutic relief. The first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved anti-HIV drug, called zidovudine (AZT), wasn’t available to patients until 1987. According to the KNTV feature, Peron realized that cannabis could help stimulate the appetite in AIDS patients, and also help deal with the pain and depression that accompanied the disease. 

“The drug that people did have was pot, and it helped,” Entwistle told Weedmaps News. “It helped with the appetite, it helped with nausea, and it helped with the depression, and that’s a pretty big deal.”   

By 1990, many of Peron’s closet friends with AIDS had died, including his lover Jonathan West. This prompted him to focus his attention on legalizing medical marijuana, planting seeds of determination, and at times despair, that would eventually pave the way to the passing of Proposition 215

“This was done as an act of compassion, Dennis gave up everything,” Entwistle explained. “If he’d just stayed underground and kept his business going, he could have lived as a normal person making a good living. Most people don’t sacrifice their means of income to do the right thing.” 

How The Ballot Initiative Came to Be

After his lover died, Peron was determined to get medical marijuana legalized as a tribute to West. The first successful legislative progress occurred in November 1991, when Peron organized for the passage of Proposition P, a San Francisco initiative calling on the state government to allow medical cannabis use, which received 79% of the vote, as detailed by the New York Times

This is where a patient’s-rights activist named Mary Jane Rathbun, known as “Brownie Mary,” entered the picture. As a volunteer for The Shanti Project in the early 1980s, which was the first organization to offer medical services to AIDS patients, Rathbun secretly distributed pot brownies to patients before she was caught and forced underground. At 68 years old, Rathbun was arrested in Cazadero, California, on July 25, 1992, for baking marijunana-infused brownies at her nephew’s house. Already a close friend of Rathburn, Dennis Peron decided to use her legal situation to draw media attention and get coverage for their cause. By the time the media circus was in full swing, Brownie Mary had been found not guilty. 

“America was hearing the story of medical marijuana from an older woman who had a working-class background that people could respect and empathize with, surfacing from an epidemic that had really caught the imagination of the country on its own,” Entwistle said. “This was a real game changer.” 

That same year, Peron opened the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public medical cannabis dispensary in the U.S. Entwistle revealed to Weedmaps News that the medical cannabis club operating out of the Castro District was supposed to be temporary; it was part of a stunt meant to get Peron busted and bring the fight for medical legalization into the courtroom and back into the media’s attention. The apartment was decorated to look like a cafe and dozens of AIDS patients were recruited to be filmed buying cannabis from the club and smoking it when the media came. 

Peron initially expected that the media footage of him selling cannabis, which was featured on television news, would lure the police into arresting him. Instead, the television station that aired the segment inside of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club received hundreds of phone calls from AIDS patients, who persuaded Peron to actually open up shop to those in need. 

“Dennis had an underground operation that had been running the whole time, so we decided to flip that around and make that the Cannabis Buyers Club,” Entwistle explained. “We raised the stakes. What else could we do?”

Over the next few years, the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club largely operated without facing recourse from law enforcement. In fact, according to Entwistle, some local police officers were even advising patients in need to purchase from the club instead of from street dealers. Around this time, Peron also turned his attention to legislative matters, managing to get three medical marijuana measures onto the desk of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who vetoed each initiative. 

“During this whole time period, the other thing we were doing was lobbying, we were trying to change the law in-house,” Entwistle said. “We went to Sacramento and put bills on the governor’s desk, which he vetoed, and that’s what led to us going out and collecting signatures for Proposition 215.” 

These initial denials from Wilson set the stage for Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, an initiative that would allow patients and caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for medical use. The measure was drafted with help from other cannabis advocates across California, such as Dale Gieringer and Willam Panzer. According to Entwistle, they were just able to gather enough signatures to solidify the initiative’s place on the state ballot. While Proposition 215 was gaining traction, the Buyers Club was operating out of a 30,000-square-foot building with somewhere from 8,000 to 10,000 customers weekly. 

Once the initiative made it on the state ballot in 1996, the federal government finally took notice of the Buyers Club and arrested Peron for possession and transportation of marijauna on Oct. 11, 1996. 

“That’s when the shit hit the fan,” Entwistle Jr. explained. “What they did was, they decided that the best way to keep Prop 215 from passing was to make the author of the initiative look like a criminal. So they went and busted Dennis and closed down the club.”  

While Enthwistle believed that the raid was intended to taint Proposition 215, the arrest and media attention ended up giving the measure a six-point boost in the polls. Less than a month later, on Nov. 6, 1996, Proposition 215 passed with 55.6% of the vote.  

“It started out as a eulogy for Jonathan and wound up to be a worldwide movement,” Peron said in the 2015 interview with KNTV. 

Key LGBTQ Figures in Fight for Legalization

Peron played a paramount role in the marijuana movement, but he was far from the only LGBTQ figure to contribute to the medical marijuana cause. Other gay and lesbian activists, many of whom were associated with Peron, were also instrumental in helping medical patients access cannabis and advocating for the passage of Proposition 215. 

Dr. Donald Abrams

Dr. Donald Abrams, an integrative oncologist at the University of San Francisco, was one of the first researchers to study the interaction between marijuana and AIDS. After meeting in 1994, Abrams collaborated with Rick Doblin, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), to outline a research project that would demonstrate the medicinal benefits of cannabis. The initial proposal was rejected by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), but after tweaking it into a “safety assessment study,” Abrams received approval along with a $978,000 grant. 

When the study concluded in 2000, the researchers found that cannabis was a safe and effective treatment for AIDS patients, reducing the disease’s progression against the immune system. Clint Werner, a fellow queer activst and husband of Abrams, is also a notable figure, having authored a compilation of scientific and medical information in 2011 entitled “Marijuana, Gateway to Health.” According to Entwistle, Abrams was instrumental in legitimizing marijuana as a potential medical treatment for AIDS and other conditions.

“If you want to make the point that someone is acting unreasonably, you got to have some concrete points, and Donald Abrams was really good at that,” he explained. “That helped set the stage for what was to come.” 

Paul Scott

Part of a direct descendant from Peron’s advocacy tree, Paul Scott operated a medical marijuana collective in Southern California called the Inglewood Wellness Center from 1999 to 2013. Similar to the San Francisco Buyers Club, this collective helped numerous AIDS and cancer patients gain access to medical cannabis, and also provided support groups for terminally ill patients to cope. Scott, who is African-American, also founded L.A.’s Black Gay Pride organization and was the Los Angeles County Commissioner on HIV and AIDS from 2002 to 2008. 

Valerie Corral, ‘Nurse Mary Jane’ Tishler, and Scott Imler

Also following in the footsteps of Peron was a group of activists from Santa Cruz, which includes Valerie Corral, the founder of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), a non-profit medicinal cannabis dispensing collective, and Andrea Tischler, a lesbian who advocated for medical marijuana and passed out free joints to sick patients throughout the small coastal city. 

According to Entwistle, Corral was one of the many activists to help with a language of Proposition 215. Tischler, who was known as “Nurse Mary Jane,” usually sported a nurse outfit with a hat featuring a glittery weed leaf on it. She worked with other activists to pass the Santa Cruz Medical Marijuana Initiative in 1993, a law similar to Proposition P in San Francisco, and also acted as the city’s chair for Proposition 215 from 1995 to 1996. 

Another important figure on the scene at the time was Scott Imler, who operated a Santa Cruz-based medical marijuana collective of his own. In 1992, Imler was convinced by Peron, his close friend, to file an initiative similar to Prop P in Santa Cruz called Measure A, which ended up passing and becoming the second local medical marijuana initiative approved in the state. 

Through the story of Peron and fellow activists of that era, it’s easy to see how LGBTQ rights and cannabis legalization have become so strongly intertwined. Not only did both movements start around the same time and strive to squash long-held social stigmas, but it was the AIDS epidemic that helped pave the way for medical marijuana and reshaped the way we see cannabis today.  

“Cannabis has always been a way to connect members of the ‘outsider community’ … people on the fringe of society. And that certainly has been part of the relationship between weed and members of the LGBTQ community,” said Carl Fillichio, Vice President of Policy Communication for Weedmaps.

“There is no doubt that people like Dennis Peron and Mary Jane ‘Brownie Mary’ Rathbun were instrumental leaders in LGBTQ rights and HIV/AIDS healthcare, but they also played a critically important role in the realization and acceptance of cannabis as legitimate medicine.”

To learn more about how the LGBTQ community revolutionized marijuana legalization in the U.S., check out the “Dose of Compassion” exhibit at the Weedmaps Museum of Weed. For ticket information, visit themuseumofweed.com.

Featured image illustrated by David Lozada/Weedmaps

The post We Wouldn’t Have Legal Weed Without These LGBTQ Activists appeared first on Weedmaps News.

Outspoken Cannabis Activist Chris Enns Charged in Connection With Halifax Dispensary Raids

An outspoken Halifax medical marijuana advocate and shop owner is now facing more charges after a raid of two cannabis dispensaries last month. Halifax Regional Police say Christopher Enns turned himself in Wednesday morning. The 34-year-old from East Chezzetcook is facing charges of possession of cannabis for the purpose of distributing and selling, possession for the use in production or distribution of illicit cannabis, and possession of property obtained by crime. – Read the entire…

Have the Heart of an Activist? You Must See the Weedmaps Museum of Weed

By Lindsey Bartlett

Those who have a heart for cannabis legalization know it’s not at the finish line quite yet. The communities that include patients, cultivators, forward-thinking doctors, stoners, and workers still face legal barriers, social stigma, and are far from the social justice, equity, clemency, and ubiquitous freedom we want for cannabis and its many, many users.

And much like the marijuana legalization movement depended on the power of activism throughout the decades, The Weedmaps Museum of Weed can’t tell the story of weed without speaking truth to power. Weedmaps understands that we benefit from the ground laid by activists who helped legalize adult use marijuana in 11 states come January 2020, and medical use in 33 states and more on the horizon. 

The Weedmaps Museum of Weed pays tribute to those influential activists in marijuana history and modern-day activists who continue to fight for cannabis access across the world today. 

Here is a brief history of cannabis activism, the organizations that continue to further the conversation, and how the Weedmaps Museum of Weed lets you join the movement. 

History of Cannabis Activism

When it comes to a state’s path to legalization, more often than not the spark began with grass-roots activism. Without activists willing to put in countless hours to organizing, strategizing, and mobilizing their communities and holding governments accountable, cannabis access would be non-existent. 

The marijuana legalization movement has a rich history of activism. During the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, activists fought and sacrificed greatly, often dealing with criminal prosecution, facing incarceration, and even risking their lives to advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana in California. That spirit still exists today, where passionate advocates continue to speak out in the face of discrimination, stigma, and legal repercussions in states such as Oklahoma, Utah, and New York.

With the influence they had on marijuana legalization and culture, some of the most celebrated cannabis activists include: 

  • Dennis Peron, “the father of medical cannabis,” opened the first dispensary in the U.S., the San Francisco Buyers Club, in the Castro District in 1992. Peron advocated for cannabis access after he lost his partner during the AIDS epidemic. His bravery and leadership during the battle for marijuana legalization have made him a cannabis activism legend. Peron was instrumental in the passing of Proposition 215, the California ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana, the first of its kind in the U.S.
  • Mary Jane Rathburn, known as “Brownie Mary,” is forever intertwined with the cannabis legalization movement for her underground operation in which she provided marijuana-infused brownies to AIDS patients in the LGBTQ community in the 1970s. At age 68, Rathburn was arrested and charged with a felony for making brownies in what was known as the “bust heard ’round the world,” resulting in a media frenzy surrounding marijuana legalization.
  • Jack Herer, the “Emperor of Hemp,” was an activist who pushed for the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana and hemp cultivation for medical, recreational, and notably for industrial use as fibers, clothing, plastics. The author of “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” Herer earned his induction into the Counterculture Hall of Fame through decades of cultivation.
  • Keith Stroup founded the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in 1970 and has dedicated nearly 40 years to weed users’ rights. He helped to transform the organization’s weed activism mission and was a powerful spokesperson who helped propel Proposition 215 in California, with dozens of states to follow.  

To learn more about the LGBTQ community’s fight for marijuana legalization in the 1980s and 1990s, read “We Wouldn’t Have Legal Weed Without These LGBTQ Activists.” 

Why Cannabis Activism Is Still Needed Today

In the places where weed is legal, it is because people took to the streets to drive this movement forward. Modern activists led State Question 788 that legalized medical marijuana in Oklahoma, work from the Utah Patients Coalition allowed medical access in Utah, and bold activists have fought tirelessly to legalize cannabis in Illinois.

The legalization of marijuana isn’t one gigantic fight, it’s thousands of battles that take place across the United States every day. These battles cannot be fought by one group or generation alone, but must be fought by thousands of activists of all stripes and colors. These highly respected organizations can attest to it. 

  • NORML, founded in 1970 by attorney Keith Stroup, is the first nonprofit in the U.S. advocating for the end of prohibition. Based in Washington D.C., its goal of responsible cannabis use helped to reframe the ideology behind legalization activism today. NORML has grown its advocacy efforts into Australia, France, Canada, England, New Zealand, and Ireland. Get involved in NORML’s Action Center or become a NORML member.
  • Marijuana Policy Project‘s motto is “We Change Laws.” Founded in 1995, it is a political lobby and nonprofit currently fighting for cannabis reform through public policy changes. MPP has a great list of resources for activists who want to put their energy into writing U.S. Senators and representatives. Become a member of MPP and spread the word via the nonprofit’s current Take Action resources
  • Drug Policy Alliance, based in New York City and founded in summer 2000, has seen substantial wins for drug reform in the U.S. It hosts the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, which aims to end the war on drugs through research, science, and compassion. DPA has played a role in each piece of state cannabis legislation in the U.S., spearheaded the national legalization in Uruguay, the first adult-use country in the world. Participate with the DPA and be alerted on ways you can take action.
  • Students Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) is a grass-roots, student-run organization founded in 1998 based on campuses around the world. It spans the globe with young-adult groups in Bolivia, China, Sierra Leone, Costa Rica, Zambia, and more.
  • CAN-DO Clemency fights for the freedom of all non-violent drug offenders. Since its founding in 2000 by Amy Ralston Povah, CAN-DO Clemency has offered education, working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation to free incarcerated people. Become a Guardian Angel to directly help free prisoners in its network.

How the Weedmaps Museum of Weed Helps the Cause

When you enter the Weedmaps Museum of Weed, you will be transported to some of the most crucial moments in the history of cannabis activism in the following exhibits: 

  • The Counterculture Revolution: The 1960s counterculture revolution is so important to weed legalization, it has its own transporting exhibit in the museum. You will walk through the door of a Volkswagen Bus into a massive swirl of real posters, protest signs, and pivotal activist moments, all against the psychedelic backdrop of the 1960s. You will see two sides of the story, where politics and activism collided in America.
  • Just Say No: You will be taken into the disorienting whirlpool of “Just Say No” ad campaigns that seemed to encompass much of the Reagan era. With a unique social justice orientation, you will be able to listen to the stories of four people who are currently behind bars in the United States for low-level marijuana crimes that have devastated their lives. 
  • Dose of Compassion: You will see a life-size replica of the first medical marijuana dispensary in the United States, the San Francisco Buyers Club. This exhibit will transport you to that moment in time when the first medical marijuana clinic open in the U.S. during the AIDS epidemic.

And while you will get a full history of cannabis activism, you’ll also be encouraged to be an active part of it, too. 

At the end of the 26,000-square-foot museum exhibit spaces, you will find a series of digital kiosks where you can help influence the next generation of cannabis laws by sending an email to your federal and state policymakers.

The cannabis community’s voice will be heard. And now yours can, too. 

This content is sponsored by Weedmaps. General Admission and VIP Tickets for the Weedmaps Museum of Weed are available at themuseumofweed.com

Feature image: The Minnesota chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) participates in the 2013 Twin Cities Pride parade in downtown Minneapolis. NORML is one of the most-established marijuana reform groups in the U.S. (Photo by Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons; used with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

The post Have the Heart of an Activist? You Must See the Weedmaps Museum of Weed appeared first on Weedmaps News.

We Wouldn’t Have Legal Weed Without These LGBTQ Activists

If you wander past the neon green cross symbol into a marijuana dispensary today, it’s likely you’ll see a wide array of cannabis products, generous budtenders quick to talk favorite strains, and an altogether feel-good environment. 

But the modern dispensary is in harsh juxtaposition with America’s first-ever public cannabis dispensary. When the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club opened in 1992 out of a small apartment in the Castro District, the somber setting was one of grave desperation rather than celebration. And we wouldn’t have the marijuana legalization we have today if it wasn’t for a group of activists who helped spark the legal marijuana movement amid an AIDS epidemic that wreaked havoc among LGBTQ and communities of color across the United States in the 1980s and ’90s.

The role that the LGBTQ community played in getting medical marijuana legalized in California is important to share. It’s a story of iconic activists who dedicated their lives to advocating for the medical potential of cannabis and fought for the passage of Proposition 215.  

It’s impossible to dive into the history of Proposition 215 and marijuana legalization without beginning with Dennis Peron, a gay man widely regarded as the “father of medical marijuana.” Peron died of lung cancer on Jan. 27, 2018, but his legacy as a cannabis and gay rights activist is well-documented and celebrated in both communities. 

The Father of Medical Marijuana 

A Bronx, New York-born Vietnam War veteran, Peron relocated to the Castro District in 1969, a historically gay neighborhood in San Francisco, after completing his stint with the United States Air Force. His initial foray with activism was as a “yippie,” a term used for radical members of the Youth International Party, is detailed in Brian Applegarth’s short documentary, “The Secret Story: How Medical Cannabis Was Re-Legalized in the US.” 

In a conversation with Weedmaps News, cannabis activist and Peron’s spouse, John Entwistle Jr., spoke about Peron’s pivotal role in the election of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, and his background as a renowned cannabis activist long before the medical benefits of the plant were recognized. 

Peron detailed to KNTV, the San Francisco Bay Area NBC affiliate,” in a feature called “Bay Area Revelations” how in the late 1970s, Peron opened the Big Top Pot Supermarket on the top two floors of a Victorian house in the Castro District, where he illegally sold cannabis to thousands of San Francisco residents. During this time, Peron became known by local law enforcement and was even shot in the leg by an undercover officer during a raid in 1978, landing him three months in the hospital and another three months in jail. 

In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic swept through the U.S., especially ravaging the gay communities in San Francisco. Originally thought to only spread among gay men, President Ronald Reagan’s administration was reluctant to act due to the adminstrations conservatism and homophobia, according to “And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic,” Randy Shilts’ book on the history of AIDS epidemic. Reagan didn’t publicly say the word “AIDS” until 1986; the disease had already claimed the lives of more than 16,000 people by then. It was the sudden onset of this devastating and fatal disease that caused Peron to shift his cannabis activism lens from a focus on civil rights to one of compassion.

“At this point, Harvey Milk had been killed and then the AIDS epidemic came, so everyone is doing caregiving and caretaking for those around who need it,” Entwistle said. “Dennis was still dealing and still doing his thing, but the main focus was the AIDS epidemic. The whole community was focused on collectively staying healthy and taking care of those who needed it.” 

One of the detrimental effects of AIDS was wasting syndrome, or cachexia, which causes unintended rapid weight loss, as well as weakness, fever, and diarrhea. During the earliest days of the epidemic, people suffering from AIDS had no readily accessible medication or therapeutic relief. The first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved anti-HIV drug, called zidovudine (AZT), wasn’t available to patients until 1987. According to the KNTV feature, Peron realized that cannabis could help stimulate the appetite in AIDS patients, and also help deal with the pain and depression that accompanied the disease. 

“The drug that people did have was pot, and it helped,” Entwistle told Weedmaps News. “It helped with the appetite, it helped with nausea, and it helped with the depression, and that’s a pretty big deal.”   

By 1990, many of Peron’s closet friends with AIDS had died, including his lover Jonathan West. This prompted him to focus his attention on legalizing medical marijuana, planting seeds of determination, and at times despair, that would eventually pave the way to the passing of Proposition 215

“This was done as an act of compassion, Dennis gave up everything,” Entwistle explained. “If he’d just stayed underground and kept his business going, he could have lived as a normal person making a good living. Most people don’t sacrifice their means of income to do the right thing.” 

How The Ballot Initiative Came to Be

After his lover died, Peron was determined to get medical marijuana legalized as a tribute to West. The first successful legislative progress occurred in November 1991, when Peron organized for the passage of Proposition P, a San Francisco initiative calling on the state government to allow medical cannabis use, which received 79% of the vote, as detailed by the New York Times

This is where a patient’s-rights activist named Mary Jane Rathbun, known as “Brownie Mary,” entered the picture. As a volunteer for The Shanti Project in the early 1980s, which was the first organization to offer medical services to AIDS patients, Rathbun secretly distributed pot brownies to patients before she was caught and forced underground. At 68 years old, Rathbun was arrested in Cazadero, California, on July 25, 1992, for baking marijunana-infused brownies at her nephew’s house. Already a close friend of Rathburn, Dennis Peron decided to use her legal situation to draw media attention and get coverage for their cause. By the time the media circus was in full swing, Brownie Mary had been found not guilty. 

“America was hearing the story of medical marijuana from an older woman who had a working-class background that people could respect and empathize with, surfacing from an epidemic that had really caught the imagination of the country on its own,” Entwistle said. “This was a real game changer.” 

That same year, Peron opened the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public medical cannabis dispensary in the U.S. Entwistle revealed to Weedmaps News that the medical cannabis club operating out of the Castro District was supposed to be temporary; it was part of a stunt meant to get Peron busted and bring the fight for medical legalization into the courtroom and back into the media’s attention. The apartment was decorated to look like a cafe and dozens of AIDS patients were recruited to be filmed buying cannabis from the club and smoking it when the media came. 

Peron initially expected that the media footage of him selling cannabis, which was featured on television news, would lure the police into arresting him. Instead, the television station that aired the segment inside of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club received hundreds of phone calls from AIDS patients, who persuaded Peron to actually open up shop to those in need. 

“Dennis had an underground operation that had been running the whole time, so we decided to flip that around and make that the Cannabis Buyers Club,” Entwistle explained. “We raised the stakes. What else could we do?”

Over the next few years, the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club largely operated without facing recourse from law enforcement. In fact, according to Entwistle, some local police officers were even advising patients in need to purchase from the club instead of from street dealers. Around this time, Peron also turned his attention to legislative matters, managing to get three medical marijuana measures onto the desk of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who vetoed each initiative. 

“During this whole time period, the other thing we were doing was lobbying, we were trying to change the law in-house,” Entwistle said. “We went to Sacramento and put bills on the governor’s desk, which he vetoed, and that’s what led to us going out and collecting signatures for Proposition 215.” 

These initial denials from Wilson set the stage for Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, an initiative that would allow patients and caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for medical use. The measure was drafted with help from other cannabis advocates across California, such as Dale Gieringer and Willam Panzer. According to Entwistle, they were just able to gather enough signatures to solidify the initiative’s place on the state ballot. While Proposition 215 was gaining traction, the Buyers Club was operating out of a 30,000-square-foot building with somewhere from 8,000 to 10,000 customers weekly. 

Once the initiative made it on the state ballot in 1996, the federal government finally took notice of the Buyers Club and arrested Peron for possession and transportation of marijauna on Oct. 11, 1996. 

“That’s when the shit hit the fan,” Entwistle Jr. explained. “What they did was, they decided that the best way to keep Prop 215 from passing was to make the author of the initiative look like a criminal. So they went and busted Dennis and closed down the club.”  

While Enthwistle believed that the raid was intended to taint Proposition 215, the arrest and media attention ended up giving the measure a six-point boost in the polls. Less than a month later, on Nov. 6, 1996, Proposition 215 passed with 55.6% of the vote.  

“It started out as a eulogy for Jonathan and wound up to be a worldwide movement,” Peron said in the 2015 interview with KNTV. 

Key LGBTQ Figures in Fight for Legalization

Peron played a paramount role in the marijuana movement, but he was far from the only LGBTQ figure to contribute to the medical marijuana cause. Other gay and lesbian activists, many of whom were associated with Peron, were also instrumental in helping medical patients access cannabis and advocating for the passage of Proposition 215. 

Dr. Donald Abrams

Dr. Donald Abrams, an integrative oncologist at the University of San Francisco, was one of the first researchers to study the interaction between marijuana and AIDS. After meeting in 1994, Abrams collaborated with Rick Doblin, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), to outline a research project that would demonstrate the medicinal benefits of cannabis. The initial proposal was rejected by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), but after tweaking it into a “safety assessment study,” Abrams received approval along with a $978,000 grant. 

When the study concluded in 2000, the researchers found that cannabis was a safe and effective treatment for AIDS patients, reducing the disease’s progression against the immune system. Clint Werner, a fellow queer activst and husband of Abrams, is also a notable figure, having authored a compilation of scientific and medical information in 2011 entitled “Marijuana, Gateway to Health.” According to Entwistle, Abrams was instrumental in legitimizing marijuana as a potential medical treatment for AIDS and other conditions.

“If you want to make the point that someone is acting unreasonably, you got to have some concrete points, and Donald Abrams was really good at that,” he explained. “That helped set the stage for what was to come.” 

Paul Scott

Part of a direct descendant from Peron’s advocacy tree, Paul Scott operated a medical marijuana collective in Southern California called the Inglewood Wellness Center from 1999 to 2013. Similar to the San Francisco Buyers Club, this collective helped numerous AIDS and cancer patients gain access to medical cannabis, and also provided support groups for terminally ill patients to cope. Scott, who is African-American, also founded L.A.’s Black Gay Pride organization and was the Los Angeles County Commissioner on HIV and AIDS from 2002 to 2008. 

Valerie Corral, ‘Nurse Mary Jane’ Tishler, and Scott Imler

Also following in the footsteps of Peron was a group of activists from Santa Cruz, which includes Valerie Corral, the founder of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), a non-profit medicinal cannabis dispensing collective, and Andrea Tischler, a lesbian who advocated for medical marijuana and passed out free joints to sick patients throughout the small coastal city. 

According to Entwistle, Corral was one of the many activists to help with a language of Proposition 215. Tischler, who was known as “Nurse Mary Jane,” usually sported a nurse outfit with a hat featuring a glittery weed leaf on it. She worked with other activists to pass the Santa Cruz Medical Marijuana Initiative in 1993, a law similar to Proposition P in San Francisco, and also acted as the city’s chair for Proposition 215 from 1995 to 1996. 

Another important figure on the scene at the time was Scott Imler, who operated a Santa Cruz-based medical marijuana collective of his own. In 1992, Imler was convinced by Peron, his close friend, to file an initiative similar to Prop P in Santa Cruz called Measure A, which ended up passing and becoming the second local medical marijuana initiative approved in the state. 

Through the story of Peron and fellow activists of that era, it’s easy to see how LGBTQ rights and cannabis legalization have become so strongly intertwined. Not only did both movements start around the same time and strive to squash long-held social stigmas, but it was the AIDS epidemic that helped pave the way for medical marijuana and reshaped the way we see cannabis today.  

“Cannabis has always been a way to connect members of the ‘outsider community’ … people on the fringe of society. And that certainly has been part of the relationship between weed and members of the LGBTQ community,” said Carl Fillichio, Vice President of Policy Communication for Weedmaps.

“There is no doubt that people like Dennis Peron and Mary Jane ‘Brownie Mary’ Rathbun were instrumental leaders in LGBTQ rights and HIV/AIDS healthcare, but they also played a critically important role in the realization and acceptance of cannabis as legitimate medicine.”

To learn more about how the LGBTQ community revolutionized marijuana legalization in the U.S., check out the “Dose of Compassion” exhibit at the Weedmaps Museum of Weed. For ticket information, visit themuseumofweed.com.

Feature image illustrated by David Lozada/Weedmaps

The post We Wouldn’t Have Legal Weed Without These LGBTQ Activists appeared first on Weedmaps News.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Top Congressional Chairman And Presidential Candidate File Marijuana Legalization Bills (Forbes)

// Mark Kleiman, who changed the way we think about crime and drugs, has died at 68 (Vox)

// Leading Legalization Group Unveils Report On Marijuana Policy Wins In 2019 So Far (Marijuana Moment)


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// Miami Cops Can No Longer Use Just ‘Weed Odor’ as Excuse to Search Cars (Merry Jane)

// Marijuana Legalization More Popular Than Free College And $15 Minimum Wage, Poll Finds (Marijuana Moment)

// California Police Confiscate 47 Tons of Weed, Bust Hash Lab in Black Market Raid (Merry Jane)

// Dixie CEO Chuck Smith Says He Expects To Be In 8 States Very Soon (Green Market Report)

// California legislative update: Several key cannabis bills still hang in balance (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Give Marijuana Businesses Access To Insurance Coverage (Marijuana Moment)

// Hundreds Of Pet Owners Tell FDA That CBD Is Helping Their Furry Companions (Marijuana Moment)


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In Memoriam: Tracy Curley, Cannabis Activist, 1973-2019

Longtime activist was a fearless and compassionate advocate for medical cannabis patients. I spent Sunday morning trying to digest the news that was spreading like wildfire through the cannabis community. Medical cannabis activist Tracy Curley passed away this past Saturday in her home. Her death has left a gaping hole in the Canadian cannabis community. On social media there was shock, sadness and disbelief. Her substantial impact speaks for itself. Tracy would often say that…