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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.”

Dennis Peron (left) and fellow medical marijuana activist Leland Cole explain the problems with the proposed ballot measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

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.”

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Hadley Robinson trekked westward from a small town in Michigan to answer the call of the Mission. She loves walking out her front door and feeling like every cuisine, cultural event, friend, opportunity and adventure awaits her.

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12 Comments

  1. Yeah, I guess alcohol is medicine too, right? I mean, I was depressed, now I’m drinking whiskey, I feel better, so I guess whiskey is medicine? Come-off it old man. You obviously have smoked too much pot and its affected your critical thinking, attention, and memory….

    Pot is 99% consumed for recreational purposes. I have a dozen friends who go to sham doctors and claim back pain so they can get their cards because its easier and cheaper than a dealer…. Lets not pretend its for medical purposes when it rarely rarely is….

    That said, I’m all for Prop 19…. Bring the prices down….Generate tax revenue….Limit the profits of grow operations that basically have free reign now to print money since there is no enforcement….

  2. Even well trained well meaning professionals may misunderstand each other.

    I was not speaking of strength of cannabis in this interview, I was speaking of cross strains being lost because of the big grows absorbing the small grows due to the market pressures that big grows will cause-

    as the diversity of many grows, molding the cross strain to best impact on a particular illness, is not possible with big grows, and so, medicinal efficacy will be lost and later medical journal reports will reflect this– once again giving this most maligned plant on earth a bad rap once more.

    Additionally , patients miss matched by the big grow product will begin to increase consumption in a futile attempt to reach previous medical efficacy.

    VOTE NO

  3. Unfortunately, Prop 19 was written to promote the cannabis industry, it leaves many movement folks out in the cold…hence you have principled people like Dennis speaking out.

    Who would have thought we would have the chance to legalize pot and it would get botched so badly that even the stoners can’t get behind it.

  4. Prop 19 will allow easier access for people who rely on cannabis as medicine, patients will be allowed to grow their own medicine at home without having to pay a fee for a medical recommendation every year ($40-$200). It is obvious why some of the medical marijuana community is against Prop 19, they will lose profits and most likely their entire businesses. It is sad that these greedy people are ignoring the dangers of prohibition and the urgency to change the laws now.
    Yes on 19

  5. @john: No it wasn’t, have you even read Prop 19? Do you think many counties are going to allow commercial sales? HELL NO! However, ANYONE can grow *AT LEAST* 25 sq. ft (this is a concrete size floor, if you actually did read the bill) and ANYONE can possess up to an ounce. Dennis isn’t principled, he makes money off his weed bed n breakfast, and made most of his money as a ‘medical’ dealer pushing medicine at insanely inflated black market prices. He doesn’t want to see the poor patient paying $50 for an ounce of weed he used to be for $400 from such principled men as Dennis. As far as I’m concerned, he can rot in hell. The rest of us in America are languishing with these horrible cannabis laws, and if this doesn’t pass it will set the movement back decades. The only ‘stoners’ against prop 19 are mafioso pseudo hippies who don’t want competition or taxes or regulation. …them.

    @Leland Cole: With all due respect, …. When everyone can grow, there will be even MORE strains and MORE varieties out there. More patients will have access to their medicine due to the price drop and with more nonmedical people growing, more advances in cannabis science can be attained. Did the ending of alcohol prohibition cause only Budweiser and Miller to dominate the beer industry? No, there is much, much more variety than there was in the days of prohibition, with thousands of microbrews and homebrews coming up will all sorts of new strengths and varieties of beer. Grow up and see the truth all around you. Admit you are against 19 because of money.

    YES ON 19!

  6. @john: No it wasn’t, have you even read Prop 19? Do you think many counties are going to allow commercial sales? HELL NO! However, ANYONE can grow *AT LEAST* 25 sq. ft (this is a concrete size floor, if you actually did read the bill) and ANYONE can possess up to an ounce. Dennis isn’t principled, he makes money off his weed bed n breakfast, and made most of his money as a ‘medical’ dealer pushing medicine at insanely inflated black market prices. He doesn’t want to see the poor patient paying $50 for an ounce of weed he used to be for $400 from such principled men as Dennis. As far as I’m concerned, he can rot in hell. The rest of us in America are languishing with these horrible cannabis laws, and if this doesn’t pass it will set the movement back decades. The only ’stoners’ against prop 19 are mafioso pseudo hippies who don’t want competition or taxes or regulation. They can rot.

    @Leland Cole: Another “I gots mine.” When everyone can grow, there will be even MORE strains and MORE varieties out there. More patients will have access to their medicine due to the price drop and with more nonmedical people growing, more advances in cannabis science can be attained. Did the ending of alcohol prohibition cause only Budweiser and Miller to dominate the beer industry? No, there is much, much more variety than there was in the days of prohibition, with thousands of microbrews and homebrews coming up will all sorts of new strengths and varieties of beer. Grow up and see the truth all around you. Admit you are against 19 because of money.
    YES ON 19!

  7. Also, the tax estimate is dead wrong, using the failed AB 390 bill as a guess (a $50/oz tax on cannabis), which likely will not be the case, as localities will set tax rates on sales, if they wish to do so.

  8. …and that, folks, is the reason we should continue to prosecute people for using marijuana. [anti-Prop 19 people, prohibitionists and pro-pot folks, should end all arguments w/ this]

    I’m sorry, but grasp at straws much? This article sounds more like a couple of old-school reformers/canna-business people (excluding Bornstein) trying to sway voters w/ fairly weak arguments. Lower diversity? Like the way it did w/ alcohol after Prohibition ended, right? “We already have legalization”? Yeah, explain that to the 78,172 people arrested in CA for marijuana last year. Hey, I’m not a huge fan of the 21 age limit either but ultimately the measure allows adults to cultivate, possess, and consume cannabis.

    Tell us you don’t want Prop 19 to pass b/c it could potentially affect the current Prop 215-established business structure. Tell us you don’t like Prop 19 b/c legalization might lower prices and create unwanted competition. Tell us you don’t like the way Richard Lee brazenly one-upped you and your Prop 215 legacy by constructing and financing a fairly reasonable legalization measure w/o your input or consultation.

    Be real w/ us about the true reasons you don’t like the measure and some of us would probably respect your position more (I, personally, like honesty in politics). But please don’t give us this “everybody’s a patient,” Prop-215-is-practically-legalization b.s. and expect all of us to take it seriously. ‘Cuz it really ain’t legalized under 215.

    I don’t mean to sound ungracious to people like Mr. Peron. I respect Prop 215 and what he and others had started back in ’96 (it was a great first step toward reform); however, I am NO patient. I’m just one of many healthy CA residents who feel that they don’t need to invent a reason to have marijuana. Some of us don’t like the concept of having to jump through hoops and pay a doctor $100+ for permission to recreationally enjoy a plant. And some of us want to see cannabis reform move toward more alcohol status rather than the pharmaceutical status where it seem to be heading. That’s our reasons for supporting Prop 19.

    Vote “Yes”.

  9. @Bruce: Shame on you for using Jack Herer’s name without his or his family’s permission, who support Prop 19. None of those bills have any money behind them, none of them have support (you think mainstream Californians are going to pass that drivel?), and your ‘reasons’ to vote no have been widely disproven. Those who vote no on 19 are on the sides of the narcs, the pigs, the cartels, and the robber barons (like Peron) that profit only because of the obscenely high prices prohibition causes cannabis to fetch, while preying on the sick with their exorbitant prices.

    YES ON 19!!

  10. Leland Cole come on now. Look at the micro brew beer industry. There are tons of different types of hops and barley to help brew your own different varieties at home. The cannabis seed and genetic companies will bloom in California. They will have the freedom and market to produce new strains with every different customer in mind. You will have boutique medical seed companies specializing in strains and clones that match to specific symptoms. Other seed companies will focus on mind blowing thc potency. Every consumer will have their choice. California medical marijuana has elevated the tastes of cannabis consumers and they will not turn to mass produced junk when they can smoke a prime product. My 25 Sq. Ft. garden is under construction.

  11. It seems to me that a lot of uninformed and selfish people have not spoken the truth here.

    The facts remain, that most every cannabis patient that uses a medicinal marijuana facility in Cali, does so because they do not have any other way of getting the cross strains they have matched to their ailments/ conditions.

    So, should Richard Lee’s testimony before the City of Oakland be the truth, then the ‘big grows’ will soon dominate supply to even these facilities, “due to the market conditions ‘big grows’ will cause”

    –the low prices the ‘big grows’ will exclusively offer-and the single strains and a few cross strains they will supply for these low prices.

    Strains that WILL NOT have the thousands of varieties of cross strains that are now out there in the medicinal use facilities, due to the thousands of ‘small medicinal grows’ that presently exist, but WILL NOT exist should ‘big grows’ take over.

    Additional reason to vote no on proposition 19 is the Mark Leno bill becoming law just days ago.As of today ,anyone can puff in Cali without arrest of any kind-it is no longer a criminal charge in California; however, should Prop 19 pass into law it would be a felony for those between 18 to 21
    years old .

    Why allow this? VOTE NO!

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