Dennis Peron, the magician of marijuana initiatives, sat amid the buds of his efforts — the bed and breakfast he runs on 17th Street. He’s 64 years old, a stroke survivor, and smokes pot regularly for a medical condition.
He’s also a self-acknowledged party pooper to those who support Proposition 19, the November ballot to legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. There is no fun in the bud, he said; “all the use of marijuana is medical.”
Follow his logic.
Prop. 19 stipulates that — for recreational use — adults older than 21 can possess an ounce of marijuana or cultivate their own if they have a 5-by-5-foot plot to plant it in.
“I don’t even understand what recreational marijuana is,” Peron said. “People say they feel high. What were you feeling before that? Not high? Low? In other words, you were depressed.”
So, we’re all patients now? Potentially, Peron said. He believes anyone who uses marijuana habitually is using it for medical purposes and should get a prescription. It’s a “stressful world full of contradictions,” and marijuana can calm you down and help you make sense of it.
Moreover, Peron added, he sees nothing in the legislation that makes him want to vote for it.
Peron, under a permanent state injunction against selling medical marijuana, runs a weed-friendly bed and breakfast, complete with marijuana plants in the garden, framed pictures of him and Harvey Milk and a series of paintings depicting various scenes of Peron and the medical marijuana movement.
Scattered in his thoughts, and distracted by his dog and various visitors going in and out of the back garden to chat, Peron said he doesn’t like how Prop. 19 regulates and defines personal use, and feels it will be used to clarify Prop. 215, which does not have strict guidelines on how much an individual needs.
“We believe personal consumption is very personal,” Peron said.
Many agree that if Prop. 19 passes the implications are uncertain, but not always in the ways that concern Peron. The law opens the door for local governments to make many of the decisions about marijuana — how many vendors can sell it, how much to tax it and whether to even opt in at all.
Still, some in the medical marijuana community support the measure. Take Daniel Bornstein, CEO of the Mission marijuana dispensary Medithrive. Although he doesn’t know what will happen to the wholesale value of marijuana if the proposition passes, for now, he isn’t worried about it.
“We would not put economic concerns over what we consider to be good for the community,” Bornstein said. “We are involved in this movement because we fundamentally believe it. To the extent it impacts our dispensary, we’re perfectly comfortable with that.”
A recent Rand Corporation study of the possible effects of legalization in California estimates that the pretax retail cost will drop by at least 80 percent. Consumer prices, however, can’t be predicted, precisely because the structure of regulation and taxes could vary.
Like Peron, Bornstein said he wishes the measure went further and allowed use in public space and for people under 21, but that at Medithrive they are “pragmatists and optimistic.”
Prop. 19 is “bittersweet,” Bornstein said. “It holds a whole host of opportunities, but as written it has limitations that some people — Dennis Peron in particular — aren’t in favor of supporting.”
It’s also unclear how the federal government will respond if the measure passes, since the consumption of marijuana will still be illegal under federal law. That concerns Peron and his friend and fellow medical marijuana activist Leland Cole, who shared a couch with Peron in the backyard. The legislation could entice the Obama Administration to crack down on California marijuana, Cole warned.
Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine, agreed.
“All I can say is what is obvious to everyone, which is there would be tremendous pressure on the Justice Department to act, not least from neighboring states that get flooded with cheap California pot,” said Humphreys, who recently returned from a year as the senior policy adviser to the White House Office of Drug Control Policy.
Cole and Peron also feel the potential mass production will result in weaker medicine. Cole said patients have thousands of different conditions, and now growers can mold the strain to the patient’s need.
“If there’s big grows, you lose the diversity,” Cole said, adding that the standardization will produce less adequate results that may delegitimize pot’s medicinal value.
But Humphreys doesn’t see the medicine getting weaker. He pointed out that in the Netherlands, pot became stronger and more addictive after legalization.
“If you are selling an addictive product, you want as potent and addictive a product as possible, so I suspect any new industry will set that as its goal.”
As for the argument that Prop. 19 will decriminalize marijuana and save on law enforcement costs, Peron believes the way to decriminalize the bud is for all recreational users to acknowledge they are using pot as medicine.
“We already have legalization,” Peron said. “We just have patients not admitting it.”