Cannabis Heroes of History: How Robert Randall Beat the U.S.

When we think of the legalization of cannabis, it is not a short, concise, or simple story. And each step forward has been the result of some kind of governmental policy change due to changing opinions, or legal consequences as the result of a person’s actions. In this article we’re going back to the re-introduction of medical cannabis in America, which all started in the 70’s with Robert Randall, when he beat the U.S. in court.

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Who is this guy?

There really wasn’t anything terribly special about Robert Randall for the first part of his life.  He was born in 1948 in Sarasota Florida, and attended the University of South Florida as a political science major starting at age 19, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in speech and a master’s degree in rhetoric. During this time he started to realize issues with his vision. He would see halos with different colors around lights, his vision would get fuzzy, and he experienced white-blindness – or achromatopsia, a form of color blindness that makes it difficult to distinguish any colors at all. Randall did go to the doctor to investigate these vision issues, but due to his age, he was told it was a result of stress.

After he graduated from university, Randall moved to Washington, DC where he took up as a cab driver. Around 1972, he realized that if he closed his left eye, he was no longer able to read out of his right eye. It didn’t matter if the writing was close up to his face, or several inches away. This time when he went to an ophthalmologist, he was finally given the diagnosis of glaucoma.

There is no cure for glaucoma today, which means there sure wasn’t any back then. Not only was Randall given this diagnosis, but he was told he would go fully blind in three to five years. As with most conditions with no real workable treatment, glaucoma sufferers are generally put on medications to try to preserve eyesight for as long as possible. Then and now, such medications are associated with pain, chronic fatigue, kidney issues, and more. Randall was thoroughly unhappy with the situation.

What is glaucoma?

glaucoma

Before getting farther into Randall’s story, let’s take a look at his affliction to get a better idea of what he was suffering from. Glaucoma is the name given to a number of eye conditions that specifically target and damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve sits in the back of the eye and is responsible for the transfer of visual information from the retina of the eye, to the vision center of the brain, which is does through electrical impulses. The optic nerve itself does not make sense of the information coming in, but rather acts as a vital link in the chain, passing on information to the brain where it can be deciphered.

It’s like a waiter writing down your order at a restaurant and then taking it back to the kitchen where the chef can decode it to prepare the meal. Imagine what would happen if the waiter hurt his leg and could only limp back and forth. Or if he disappeared altogether. There would be no way to get the information from the eaters, all the way to the chefs. It suffices to say that a well-functioning optic nerve is necessary for good vision.

One of the ways glaucoma damages the optic nerve, is with abnormally high pressure. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in those 60 years of age and older, and while it does usually target older generations, it can occur at any age.

I can actually account for this myself, having had high eye pressures nearly my entire life (also affected by the thickness of the cornea, or in my case, the thinness of the cornea). My grandfather was nearly completely blind when he died with glaucoma a couple years ago, my uncle was just as lucky as Robert Randall, being diagnosed in his college years, and my mother actually required holes drilled in her corneas to relieve the pressure. It does say quite a bit for modern medicine that my mother and her brother have not lost their vision…yet. Loss of vision from glaucoma cannot be recovered. Most people with this affliction lose their vision gradually, and often problems aren’t realized until way too late.

There are two types of glaucoma, they are defined by the angle created by the iris (the part of the eye with color) and the cornea, which is the outer layer that covers the eye. Open-angle glaucoma refers to when the iris is in the right place, but fluid is kept from appropriately exiting, creating a build-up of pressure. Kind of like having a clogged drain. In closed-angle glaucoma, the iris itself is usually misshapen or damaged, causing it to be squeezed against the cornea. This also blocks the ability for moisture to leave, allowing for a build-up of pressure. Open-angle is substantially more common.

If you are concerned you might have an eye issue like glaucoma, please consult your family physician or a specialist. Some basic warning signs to be aware of:

Open-angle – patchy blind spots in central or peripheral vision, in one or both eyes. Tunnel vision when advanced stages are reached.

Closed-angle (narrow-angle, acute-angle) – intense headaches, eye pain, blurry vision, halos around lights, eye redness, nausea and vomiting.

glaucoma and cannabis

And now back to Robert Randall

Robert Randall had smoked marijuana before, and remembered that it had helped with eye strain previously. Around 1973 he realized that smoking cannabis did, indeed, help his eyesight. In fact, remember those halos he was seeing around lights? He found that smoking cannabis helped eliminate them. He found such relief from cannabis that he eventually started growing it himself to cut down on costs. In early 1975, marijuana plants were found on his back porch, and in August of that year, he was busted for simple possession of cannabis. At this time, cannabis was 100% illegal for recreational or medical use in the U.S., and not one state had a medical marijuana policy. The use of cannabis had been outlawed since the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.

Randall decided to fight back. He went in front of the court and presented a medical defense that even his lawyer was not behind, stating that smoking marijuana helped to minimize his suffering from glaucoma. This was a completely novel claim at the time. But Randall persevered, finding research conducted through UCLA that supported his claim, and going through a litany of tests to prove his point.

The United States vs Randall

There are plenty of landmark cases in U.S. legal history, and this case is certainly one of them. In 1976, Robert Randall went up against the US federal government using a medical necessity defense for his use of marijuana. Through the case it was found that according to the original diagnosing doctor, Doctor Fine, that the drugs being used to treat his glaucoma were completely ineffective by 1974 due to increased resistance.

Once on trial, he became a participant in experimental programs led by Dr. Hepler who worked for the US government. Dr. Hepler testified in court that Randall was not being helped by the medications, and that surgery was a dangerous idea as it could result in immediate blindness. In fact, the main result of the medical tests was that marijuana smoke did reduce his visual problems, and had a beneficial effect on his overall condition.

The court ruled in Randall’s favor as it found he met all the requirements for a necessity defense, and that he had not caused his own blindness. Judge James A. Washington of the D.C. Superior Court stated when Randall beat the U.S. “…the evil he sought to avert, blindness, is greater than that he performed.” When Robert Randall beat the U.S., he became the first person in the U.S. since 1937 who could legally smoke marijuana. And not just smoke it, but have it provided to him by the U.S. government. Something that continued until his death on June 2nd 2001 due to AIDS complications.

Around the same time that Randall beat the U.S. in court and the charges were dismissed, Randall’s attorneys were successful in petitioning the FDA to have him participate in a research program that would allot him 10 joints a day. This was fine, though Randall often complained about the quality of the government marijuana, claiming it tasted metallic and that street cannabis was better. Then in 1978, his eye doctor moved states and Randall was abruptly dropped from the program. So, what did he do? In 1978 Randall successfully sued the U.S. government to be included in the program once more! Yes, Randall beat the U.S. government again. In fact, this means Randall beat the U.S. government twice. First defensively, and then offensively.

Since then…

marijuana activists

Randall wasn’t just out for himself, he became one of the leading cannabis activists of the time. He travelled around lecturing – even risking his own ability to access cannabis, as well as pushing for legal change. Between 1978-1980, he was an instrumental aide in enacting 30 different laws throughout the States that recognized the medical benefits of cannabis, and also helped establish programs to provide medical cannabis access to patients. Most were never actually active though as the federal government fought hard to close them.

In 1981 he founded the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, a non-profit which pushed for greater legal freedoms when it comes to medical marijuana. He even drafted legislation for the 97th congress for the fair and compassionate use of medical marijuana. Hearings were never heard on it, but it did attract 110 co-sponsors including a young Newt Gingrich.

In the 1990’s he began focusing more on AIDS, likely because of his own situation of being diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. He established MARS – the Marijuana AIDS Research Service to help those with AIDS obtain cannabis for medicine. Hundreds of patients went to access this service, and though it was initially approved by the government, it was abruptly closed, even though requests had been given the okay. This left a lot of sick people with no means for legal, useful, cannabis medication, and public outrage over it led to different states eventually offering up ballot measures. It’s what helped drive California to pass Proposition 215 in 1996, becoming the first state to have an instituted medical marijuana program (which came well after Virginia allowed medical use in a drug bill, but never put it into action).

Randall also authored six books, one of which was about his plight. Co-authored with his partner Alice O’Leary, the book is entitled Marijuana RX: the Patients Fight for Medical Pot. He died in 2001 in the same city he was born, Sarasota, Florida. He was 53 years old.

Conclusion

Robert Randall’s name is not one of the more well-known when it comes to legal antics or cannabis, yet he proved himself to be one of the most important figures in the re-establishment of medical marijuana. As medical legalization policies sprout up all over the world, and as medical cannabis was just rescheduled according to the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Substances, perhaps we should take a minute to give a little thankful appreciation to one of the heroes that helped make it happen. So thank you Robert Randall, for having the intelligence, motivation, and drive to beat the U.S. in court, and for fighting to help those in need.

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References

Why Using THC Is Good for the Eyes
Cannabis and Schizophrenia – Not a Testable Hypothesis

Cannabis Falling from the Sky in Israel
Can CBG Be The Answer To Treating Glaucoma?

Prop 65 Warning on California Cannabis Products Opens the Floodgates for Next Nobel Prize Winner? Will Legal Synthetic Cannabinoids Take Over Cannabis Industry?
What is DELTA 8 THC (FAQ: Great resource to learn about DELTA 8THC)

Lebanon Legalized Medical Cannabis, 1st in Arab World
Argentina Legalized Medical Cannabis in 2017 – and Gives It Away for Free
The CBD Flowers Weekly newsletter (your top resource for all things smokable hemp flowers)
The Medical Cannabis Weekly newsletter (International medical cannabis business report)
How Green Is Ireland When It Comes to Cannabis Regulation?

The Delta 8 Weekly Newsletter (All you need to know about Delta 8 thc) and the Best Black Friday Delta 8 THC Deals 2020.  The best delta-8 THC deals, coupons and discounts.
As Medical Cannabis Industry Booms, China Remains Quietly on Top Virginia and Cannabis, Setting the Record Straight The World’s First Fully Stable and Genetically Uniform Cannabis Hybrid Seeds
Can You Be Allergic to Cannabis?

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Why is using THC good for the eyes

These days the list of illnesses that cannabis medicines can be used for grows every day, with research studies being done left and right to test its efficacy against different symptoms and disorders. Most attention is focused on CBD because of its lack of psychoactive effects, while THC is often left out. However, it was found early on that THC is good for the eyes, and has been used to treat conditions like glaucoma for decades.

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Medical cannabis back in the day

Before getting into the restart of medical cannabis in more recent decades, let’s go over some facts about the use of cannabis in medicine. Essentially, it’s been used in medicine for thousands of years, long before it was co-opted by Western medicine in the 1800’s, and then re-introduced once again after a period of enforced illegalization. It’s a part of two of the oldest medicinal traditions, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, both of which have multiple applications for the use of cannabis to treat tons of different ailments. It has been used in many other lesser-known medical traditions as well.

Prior to it being scheduled as a narcotic by the Single Convention on Narcotic Substances which forced a global illegalization, cannabis was being used in all types of Western medicine applications. In fact, it was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia for the first time in 1850, but dropped from there in 1937 following the Marijuana Tax act. Before the laws changed, it could be found in tons of products, for almost anything. Most people, of course, had no real understanding of this, but it does show that cannabis was being used very heavily in the world of medicine. Considering how many countries were forced into illegalizing the plant, this was not confined to just the US.

marijuana for the eyes

Cannabis has existed medicinally in essentially three stages. The first was everything up until the 1800’s when it was used in natural medicine traditions. The second stage was the original co-opting of the drug into Western medicine, and the third is the reintroduction back into Western medicine more recently.

It entered Western medicine for the first time in around 1842 when the Irish researcher Dr. William O’Shaughnessy published Bengal Dispensatory and Pharmacopoeia which included an entire 25 pages devoted to cannabis use in medicine. He started studying it back in 1933, when a part of the British East India Company, and saw it as beneficial for use with digestive issues, acute rheumatism, in dealing with pain, and for sedation, among other applications.

The restart of medical cannabis

Over in Israel, Raphael Mechoulam was doing his own thing in the mid-1900’s, publishing a paper on the isolation of THC in 1964, and investigating it for use with a number of illnesses. Research that essentially got pushed underground for decades. There was also Roger Adams, the guy who isolated CBD in 1940, the compound that helped bolster medical cannabis in general by offering a non-psychoactive compound to treat illnesses. Basically, all those things cannabis had already been used for, prior to illegalization, began to be tested through more modern means of medical research. Most of this didn’t make any waves for a long time, until California made the topic an international story.

In the US in 1979, Virginia passed a drug bill to overhaul its system, and this bill allowed for cannabis medications to be prescribed to people with glaucoma and cancer. This was the first modern medical legalization in the US. California pushed harder with a bill solely for cannabis use in medicine in 1996, setting off a flurry of changing regulation in the States with its Proposition 215.

THC is good for the eyes, especially glaucoma

THC and glaucoma

It might not be considered one of its more prevalent uses now, but cannabis use to treat glaucoma was one of the first reasons for its reintroduction into Western medicine. And this because THC has been shown to be good for the eyes. Research into cannabis use for the eyes has been out since the 1970’s, when it was determined that marijuana, and specifically THC, can decrease intraocular pressure, one of the main reasons for glaucoma.

There is more than one type of glaucoma, but the majority of sufferers have POAG – or, primary open-angle glaucoma. It might not be mentioned as much as other disorders, but glaucoma is very widespread, affecting upwards of 60 million people worldwide. Other than age and race, intraocular pressure is the third risk factor for developing the disease, meaning keeping pressures under control is vital, especially as glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataracts.

The idea that THC can be used to treat glaucoma – AND medically in general! – came about in the mid 70’s when a 26-year-old guy named Robert Randall – who was experiencing advanced glaucoma, which wasn’t being adequately taken care of – noticed the disappearance of halos around lights (caused by his high eye pressures) after smoking marijuana. Randall ended up growing his own marijuana, for which he got caught and arrested, and subsequently faced federal charges.

In the 1976 landmark case The United States vs Randall, Randall successfully argued his case in front of the DC Superior Court, creating “The first successful articulation of the medical necessity defense in the history of the common law, and indeed, the first case to extend the necessity defense to the crimes of possession or cultivation of marijuana.” This made Randall the first legal medical cannabis user since 1937 when the Marijuana Tax Act essentially ended cannabis use in medicine, and in general.

smoking cannabis

How else is THC good for the eyes?

Funny enough, THC has an application that we all technically know about already. And if not necessarily ‘good’, with possible medical purpose, at least. Everyone knows that cannabis dries out the eyes. I can personally attest to the fact that my contacts stick right to my eyes when using marijuana. This, in and of itself, isn’t a benefit, but in this study it was shown that THC is good for regulating the lacrimal gland, and this may have positive benefits for people with epiphora, a condition of over-tearing eyes.

In 2004, a study was published on the effects of cannabis on night vision. The study included very few subjects which means it requires more corroboration, however, it did show a positive outcome. In two double blind studies on subjects who smoked kif (here defined as “sifted cannabis sativa mixed with tobacco”), it was noted that night vision improved after smoking. The belief of the investigators is that this is based on dose, and that the effect is mediated at the retinal level. The study used Marinol as its form of THC, in doses of 0-20mg.

One of the issues with THC is that due to the general ban on it, not as much research has been done into it as could have been. Right now there isn’t much research regarding cannabis and cataracts, but there are some connections that might prove promising. For one thing, THC helps reduce inflammation, which is a major characteristic of cataracts, along with elevated blood pressure which cannabis can help to decrease as well.

Another major eye issue, especially among the aging, is macular degeneration. Cannabis can help treat symptoms in many ways. For one, much like with cataracts, it can help with inflammation. Second, it can also inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor, and without the harsh side effects of pharmaceutical medications for this purpose. Third, it lowers intraocular pressure – which is beneficial for glaucoma sufferers too. And fourth, when looking at the psychological factors of having such an eye condition, and the anxiety and depression that can go along with it, cannabis can be useful here as well, helping to ease these symptoms and relax the patient.

Conclusion

As with any other topic related to medical marijuana, there are plenty of articles shouting out about possible damage caused by using it. Anyone interested in using cannabis to treat their eye issues should speak to a professional of some kind, preferably one who understands cannabis medicine. However, that THC can be good for the eyes seems to have been understood for quite some time, though its actual application has been much slower with the pick-up. Perhaps in the future this will change.

Thanks for dropping by CBDtesters.co, your #1 spot for all cannabis-related news. Keep up with us every day to know what’s going on in the world of legal marijuana, and sign up to our newsletter so you’re always in the know!

Resources

Interview with Raphael Mechoulam: The Father of Cannabis Research
Cannabis and Schizophrenia – Not a Testable Hypothesis

Cannabis Falling from the Sky in Israel
Germany Leads EU in Cannabis Oil Imports…and Exports

Prop 65 Warning on California Cannabis Products Opens the Floodgates for Next Nobel Prize Winner? Harvey Prize, a Predictor of the Nobel Prize Goes to Raphael Mechoulam
What is DELTA 8 THC (FAQ: Great resource to learn about DELTA 8THC)

Cannabis Use in Ancient Times – From Nomadic Warrior Women to Egyptian Pharaohs, and beyond
Can Greece Leverage Medical Cannabis to Save Its Ailing Economy?
The CBD Flowers Weekly newsletter (your top resource for all things smokable hemp flowers)
The Medical Cannabis Weekly newsletter (International medical cannabis business report)
How Green Is Ireland When It Comes to Cannabis Regulation?

The Delta 8 Weekly Newsletter (All you need to know about Delta 8 thc) and the Best Black Friday Delta 8 THC Deals 2020.  The best delta-8 THC deals, coupons and discounts.
Cannabis Election Results Virginia and Cannabis, Setting the Record Straight The World’s First Fully Stable and Genetically Uniform Cannabis Hybrid Seeds
Best Delta-8 Deals, Coupons and Discounts

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Virginia and Cannabis, Setting the Record Straight

When it comes to Virginia and cannabis, Virginia didn’t see any big changes with the last US election. This is because the state had already decriminalized cannabis earlier this spring, and expanded on its own medical legalization policy this past summer. However, there’s one other thing when it comes to Virginia and cannabis, something that’s often misunderstood. Virginia was actually the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana, back in 1979.

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Was Virginia really first?

Indeed it was! And it went through with practically no buzz at all. In 1979, Virginia did an overhaul of its drug laws which included the inclusion of the use of cannabis medicines for people specifically suffering from glaucoma and cancer. The medical legalization allowed patients with these illnesses to receive the medications, but wasn’t expanded on past that point for many, many years. In fact, it wasn’t until 2017 that the bill was finally expanded to include more conditions and generally looser policies. It was updated yet again in the summer of 2020.

So, what happened to the bill? Not much. The issue with legalizations is that they don’t come compact with finished frameworks for regulation. They merely state the decision to change the legality of a specific thing. Once the status is changed, especially when a former black-market product becomes a regular market product, there has to be some kind of setup for how it’ll work. Will it be taxed, at what rate, and by what entity? How can it be used exactly, and where? Are there age restrictions? What’s the cost, and is there a cost ceiling? Where can the product come from, and what are the regulations for producing it?

cannabis decriminalization

These things and more must be figured out, and if they aren’t, the legalization is open to much debate in court, apart from the fact that it stymies the ability to have an operational industry. For years the law sat, practically unknown to the Board of Medicine, attorney general, or court system in general.

To say that it passed quietly is true, but this didn’t stop its near repeal two decades later. In 1996, upon California’s debate to legalize cannabis for medical use, Virginia suddenly became more aware of its own cannabis standing, and there was a major political fight that made it look like the bill would be repealed. One of the issues that led to this attempt to repeal, was that the law as it was written, allowed any doctor to recommend cannabis use, not just doctors in the state. It was probably written like this originally, because no other state had a legalization policy. In the end, it wasn’t repealed, but that didn’t mean much.

Why did no one hear about Virginia and its new-age cannabis policy back in the late 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s? Because it just sat there. No body to oversee anything, no laws on the books. Just a legalization that hung out there, essentially doing nothing. And barely being noticed until California did its thing.

How are California and Virginia different?

When people say that California was the first to pass a medical cannabis bill, in a way it is true. Virginia was the first state to allow any kind of cannabis use medically, but that was really a part of a much bigger bill. Sort of an afterthought to it.

California, on the other hand, crafted a bill specifically for the use of cannabis in medicine. Called the Medical Use of Marijuana Initiative (or, The Compassionate Use Act), not only was it a bill centered around medical marijuana use specifically, but it was a ballot measure which was voted in by its people through Proposition 215. Virginians never knew that their laws were tweaked to allow medical cannabis use in 1979, it was never put out there for them, voted on by them, or explained to them in any way.

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For California, it wasn’t a tiny add-on to another bill, but rather its own. In that way, California was most certainly the first US state to craft and pass its own medical cannabis bill, centered on cannabis, and about medical cannabis only. For anyone who thinks this makes it the first cannabis legalization, this would be incorrect, and it goes back to Virginia earning that title. Unfortunately, the title meant very little as the state dragged its feet to institute the policy.

Where else can this be seen?

Mexico is a great example of this right now. In 2018, the country legalized recreational cannabis use through its court system, which forced the legislative system to come up with laws to match the judiciary system. The laws were due out quite some time ago, but for various reasons have been postponed repeatedly, with the current date not until the spring. This leaves Mexico in a weird legal limbo. Some things like selling and trafficking are always illegal (and don’t require new legislation). Other things like use and possession are more fluid. How much a person has and what they’re doing with it, could mean the difference between a jail sentence, paying a fine, and nothing at all. The world has been watching Mexico and waiting for the outcome, for Virginia, there were no eyes on it, and so a suspended animation was created for decades with no movement.

States like New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana are in the same boat. All four just changed their legalizations policies for medical, recreational, or both, in the last election, meaning they have new laws, but no framework yet to use them. The idea is always to get the regulations hammered out quickly so as not to maintain a system where there is legal ambiguity. After all, if someone gets arrested for an act now that has technically been made legal, but which has no actual laws to govern it, it creates a gray area that can be argued extensively in court.

Virginia today

Post elections, it was announced that the governor of Virginia was pushing for an adult-use recreational policy. When states like California, Oregon, and Maine went legal, it wasn’t a huge surprise, but Virginia would be the first southern state to legalize marijuana, highlighting a major shift in overall thought regarding cannabis policy.

The south and cannabis

Virginia is a southern state, with a cannabis decriminalization policy that was signed by the governor in May 2020, and went into effect July 1st. The law (SB2 and HB 972) decriminalizes up to an ounce of cannabis. Virginia can swing red or blue, and like other states – both north and south – has both a strong conservative and liberal foundation. When looking at the other US locations that have legalized for recreational use, they all have one thing in common, they are not in the south, and have generally stronger liberal bases. There have been more medical legalizations in these states (West Virginia has one, Mississippi just voted one in), but many of the holdout states like Georgia and South Carolina (no medicinal legalization, recreational legalization, or decriminalization measures), are in the south.

Virginia is not the only southern state to decriminalize. It joins Mississippi, which decriminalized small amounts of cannabis in 1978; and Missouri which decriminalized up to 10 grams in 2014. But, if Virginia actually passes a recreational cannabis measure, it’ll be the first southern state to do so.

Conclusion

When it comes to new cannabis legalization measures, there are many firsts, and not all of them are terribly impressive. Virginia could have been a massively trailblazing state, but instead passed a huge legalization measure for the time, and then essentially went and took a nap for two decades. When it comes to Virginia and cannabis, it’s a story of not just the overall change in legalization policies, but the idea that such policies are reaching down to places that have been holding onto their marijuana illegalization laws very tightly. Just the fact that the legalization passed in 1979 says something, just like Virginia being one of only a few states in the region to consider cannabis legalizations of any kind. If Virginia legalizes cannabis recreationally, it’ll go back to being the first. In this case, the first southern state to break away and change course.

Thanks for stopping by CBDtesters.co, your hub for all cannabis-related news. Keep up with us daily to know what’s going on in the world of legal cannabis, and sign up to our newsletter so you never miss a beat!

Resources

Mexico Delayed Cannabis Bill Again
Cannabis and Schizophrenia – Not a Testable Hypothesis

India’s Bhang Loophole, and the Question of Legalization
Germany Leads EU in Cannabis Oil Imports…and Exports

Prop 65 Warning on California Cannabis Products Opens the Floodgates for Lawsuits Best Ounce Deals on Indoor Hemp Flowers
What is DELTA 8 THC (FAQ: Great resource to learn about DELTA 8THC)

How the Ruskey’s do Cannabis – A Look At Regulation in Russia
America Is Cannabis Friendly – It’s Official
The CBD Flowers Weekly newsletter (your top resource for all things smokable hemp flowers)
The Medical Cannabis Weekly newsletter (International medical cannabis business report)
A Complete Look At Cannabis and Depression

The Delta 8 Weekly Newsletter (All you need to know about Delta 8 thc) and the Best Black Friday Delta 8 THC Deals 2020Cannabis Election Results –Best Deal Of The Year – $9.99 Delta 8 THC Vape Cartridges CanBreed Introduced The World’s First Fully Stable and Genetically Uniform Cannabis Hybrid Seeds
Best Delta-8 Deals, Coupons and Discounts

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Meet Dennis Peron, the father of medical marijuana

If you can consume legal cannabis, there is a small group of dedicated and passionate cannabis activists to thank, one of whom is Dennis Peron. Widely credited as the “Father of Medical Marijuana” in California, he was an activist who worked tirelessly for access to medical use cannabis, beginning with the San Francisco gay community at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s. His partner, Jonathan West, died of AIDS in 1990. 

Peron kept charismatic company, befriending politicians and activists like Harvey Milk, the first openly gay — and subsequently assassinated — politician in California, and Mary Jane Rathbun, aka Brownie Mary, who became well-known for baking and giving pot brownies to San Francisco’s AIDS patients. He later married another activist in the medical marijuana movement, John Entwistle.

Peron was born in the Bronx and grew up in Long Island, New York. After a stint in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, Peron returned to the U.S. with two pounds of smuggled weed. Soon thereafter, he moved to San Francisco’s Castro District and joined Abbie Hoffman’s Youth International Party (Yippies), and in 1991, he organized the passage of San Francisco’s Proposition P, a resolution that allowed San Francisco residents to consume medical cannabis without being criminalized.

Cannabis, violence, and the road to legalization

In 1994, Peron co-founded, along with Brownie Mary and several others, San Francisco’s Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public medical cannabis dispensary in the U.S. But the Cannabis Buyers Club was nothing like the clean, curated and state-legal dispensaries consumers know today. Essentially selling illegal cannabis out in the open, the collective was under constant threat of harassment, arrest — which happened many times — and even violence (Peron was shot in the leg by a San Francisco police officer). 

Perhaps Peron’s most well-known contribution to the current cannabis landscape is his work on California’s Proposition 215, thought to have blazed a direct path to the passage of Prop 64 in 2016 that legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older in the Golden State. 

However, he did not support Prop 64 or Prop 19 before it, either literally or figuratively. Peron believed that there was no such thing as “recreational” cannabis and that all people who consume cannabis are doing it for medicinal purposes, whether they know it or not. 

“There is no recreational marijuana. They made it up. What they’re trying to do is separate us by saying there’s people having fun and there’s people medicating,” Peron told Merry Jane in 2016. “But people who use marijuana don’t get ‘high,’ they get normal. The government is trying to say that people are getting high. They’re trying to demonize these people because they’re having fun.

He was also strongly opposed to taxing cannabis, saying in the “Time for Hemp” podcast in 2010, “In California and other states, medicine is not taxed. Now all of a sudden our medicine has to be taxed. And I don’t get this tax … And I know it sounds good to say, ‘let’s just tax our way out of this thing. But you can’t. This is a moral crusade.”

In his later years, Peron ran a cannabis farm in northern California and received formal recognition from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for his activism. In 2018, at the age of 72, Peron passed away from lung cancer. He is survived by his husband, John Entwistle, another important activist in the gay rights and cannabis legalization movements. Peron has left behind an important and groundbreaking legacy.

Featured image by Eddie Hernandez Photos/Shutterstock

The post Meet Dennis Peron, the father of medical marijuana appeared first on Weedmaps News.

Tod Mikuriya: Grandfather of Medical Marijuana

Dr. Tod Mikuriya was a critical force in the
successful and ground-breaking effort to legalize medical marijuana in
California in the 1990s. Now his papers
are available
to researchers through a newly archived collection at the
National Library of Medicine.

The Berkeley psychiatrist, who died in 2007, was hailed as the grandfather of the medical marijuana movement, backing up the activists with unimpeachable scholarly chops to the rage of the Drug War establishment. It was hard to assail his credibility, as he had actually headed up the National Institute of Health’s cannabis research program in the 1960s before defecting to the side of the people being studied, so to speak. 

An ‘Inappropriate Attack of Curiosity’ 

Mikuriya was born in a rural part of
Pennsylvania’s Bucks County in 1933, to mixed German and Japanese immigrant
stock. This obviously made him the target of prejudice during his childhood in
World War II, an experience to which he would later attribute his rebellious
streak. 

Mikuriya received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Reed College in
Oregon in 1956, before serving a medic in the Army. He then went to medical
school at Philadelphia’s Temple University, where the turning point in his life
occurred. 

As he would years later relate to video-journalist Ruby Dunes on the sidelines of a cannabis conference in Santa Barbara, in 1959 Mikuriya was “struck by an inappropriate attack of curiosity” after reading an unassigned chapter in a pharmacology textbook that mentioned the widespread medicinal use of cannabis in the United States before it was outlawed in 1937.

He was sufficiently intrigued that on summer break between semesters that year, he overcame his ingrained fear and traveled to Mexico to seek the stuff out, buying a small quantity from a street-dealer. Nothing would ever be the same for him.  

In 1966, Mikuriya began directing the drug addiction treatment center of the New Jersey Neuropsychiatric Institute, at Princeton. That same year, he travelled to Morocco’s hashish heartland of the Rif Mountains, where he smoked kif with Berber tribesman who had resisted French colonial efforts to stamp out cannabis smoking.  

It was also during this period that he discovered and immersed himself in the works of Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, the Irish physician who researched the long tradition of medicinal use of cannabis in India in the 19th century. Mikuriya came to view O’Shaugnessy as a “personal hero.” 

Mikuriya was also among the first scholars to re-explore the findings of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, the 1894 study ordered by British colonial authorities to examine the supposed cannabis problem in the subcontinent, which instead determined that use is “either harmless or even beneficial.” 

In 1967, Mikuriya became a researcher at the Center for Narcotics & Drug Abuse Studies of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), itself a division of the National Institutes of Health. This agency was the predecessor of today’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). There, he headed up what he would later call the government’s “first overground cannabis research program.” (He would learn there was a “concurrent secret study” going on at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, linked to the CIA’s search for truth serums and psychotropic warfare agents.) 

He was dispatched to California for the study, to observe the habits of the hippies who were then bursting upon the scene. But as Martin Lee writes in his book “Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana,” “Mikuriya realized that as far as cannabis was concerned he had more in common with the reefer rebels he visited in Northern California than with the ‘repressed bureaucrats’ who debriefed him when he returned from the West Coast.”

In 1968, Mikuriya stepped down from his NIMH position and moved to Berkeley, where he took up a private psychiatric practice. The most important work of his life was about to begin.

Intellectual Force Behind Medical Marijuana Push 

In 1972, Mikuriya published the Marijuana Medical Papers:
1869-1972
, a germinal work that was instrumental in launching the modern movement
for medical marijuana.  

As this movement began to take off in California amid the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, Mikuriya came to be seen as the intellectual prowess behind the activist efforts.

San Francisco’s cannabis crusader Dennis Peron was viewed as the key architect of Proposition 215, the 1996 ballot measure that made medical marijuana legal in California, but it was Mikuriya who helped draft the text. If Peron was the father of the medical marijuana movement, Mikuriya was its grandfather, providing guidance behind the scenes. 

After the passage of 215, he founded Mikuriya Medical Practice, which lives on today and touts itself as “California’s original medical marijuana consultation service.” During this period, he was writing numerous medical marijuana recommendations for patients every day. He was fondly known to his following as “Dr. Tod.” 

In the following years, he would found the California Cannabis Research Medical Group and its latter offshoot, the Society of Cannabis Clinicians.

But his open stance also attracted unwelcome if inevitable attention from the authorities. President Bill Clinton’s hardline drug czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, publicly derided Mikuriya’s medical practice and advocacy as “the Cheech and Chong show.” 

Finally, in 2000, the Medical Board of California accused Mikuriya of unprofessional conduct for allegedly failing to conduct proper physical examinations on 16 patients for whom he had recommended cannabis. The case was based on the testimony of undercover agents, including police. He would tell the medical board at his disciplinary hearing, “Never before had a fake witness infiltrated my practice and created a fraudulent medical record. It’s most upsetting.” 

None of his legitimate patients complained about his conduct — on the contrary, several testified to the Medical Board in his defense. 

In 2004, the Medical Board gave Mikuriya five years’ probation and a $75,000 fine. He appealed the ruling, and was allowed to continue practicing under the supervision of the state-appointed monitor. 

‘First-line Medication’ 

Mikuriya died of cancer in May 2007. His obituary in the New York Times noted that he was reported to have recommended cannabis
for nearly 9,000 patients. 

And he was quite out of the closet about his own use. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2004, “He willingly acknowledges, unlike most of his peers in cannabis consulting, that he does indeed smoke pot, mostly in the morning with his coffee.” 

As Mikuriya told Ruby Dunes in the interview the year before he died, “Cannabis is far less dangers than most any other medication you can think of, especially when dealing with chronic conditions. Cannabis should be looked on as a first-line medication, instead of it being something that you try when you give up on all the conventional treatments.” 

TELL
US,
 do
you consider cannabis a first-line medication?

The post Tod Mikuriya: Grandfather of Medical Marijuana appeared first on Cannabis Now.

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.

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.