(Mission Local) 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.”
“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.
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.”
In other words, I’m not a criminal, I’m a patient who won’t admit it?
Sorry, Dennis, I’m not a patient. I am healthy adult male who uses cannabis to socialize, to enhance, and to relax. I don’t need a doctor’s permission to enjoy cannabis any more than I need permission to enjoy a beer. I don’t need a medical excuse to justify the morality of my marijuana use.
Peron’s stance is dangerous for a number of reasons.
First off, there is no doubt that when it comes to marijuana use, there are “want to’s” and “need to’s”. Angel Raich, Elvy Musikka, Irv Rosenfeld, and my wife, for instance, “need to” use cannabis. They have severe physical conditions that without cannabis use would cause desperate pain and suffering.
But I’m a “want to”; if I don’t get to smoke a bowl for a day or a week or a month, I’m not in pain or suffering. Marijuana is an excellent supplement to my life, but not a required medicine.
This natural distinction is what got medical use laws passed in the first place. People who found marijuana use to be immoral were forced to admit letting people suffer needlessly is more immoral. There is 70% support nationwide for letting people smoke a joint if it eases suffering, but only 40% support nationwide for letting people smoke a joint just because. That means 3 out of 7 people that support medical will be pissed to find their support twisted into letting people smoke a joint just because.
This leads to the “don’t pee on my leg and tell me it is raining” backlash to medical marijuana. In state after state opponents say they don’t want people to suffer, but medical marijuana is turning into just an excuse to get high for most “so-called patients”. Now Peron is presenting to them confirmation of that notion by telling them that all habitual recreational users should just call themselves “patients”.
As states east of the Mississippi fight to even get a medical marijuana bill out of committee, the politicians constantly invoke California as the example of what they don’t want in their law. That thin rationale of helping the suffering that some of these politicians use to move forward becomes much thinner after Peron’s statements. As it stands now, people with chronic pain won’t be able to qualify under the latest medical marijuana law in New Jersey and even cancer and AIDS patients won’t be able to grow a single plant – and those restrictions exist because of nervous lawmakers citing “abuses” in California.
Furthermore, Peron mentions that “anyone who uses marijuana habitually is using it for medical purposes”, so I have to wonder, how often is “habitually”? If I vacation in California once a decade and want to smoke a joint as I watch the sun set on the Pacific, is that “habitual” enough to be considered a “patient”?
The action Peron suggests is what I warned of as “permanent medicalization”. As much as he’d wish it, all of the nearly three million California tokers aren’t going to fork over $40-$150 at a referral clinic for permission to smoke pot. That means that some “patients not admitting it” are going to be arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned.
Peron’s concept just doesn’t make sense. If everyone who uses does so for medical reasons, and people who use medically shouldn’t be arrested, what is the point of the criminal prohibition in the first place? If we’re all “patients, not criminals”, then there are no criminals and no crime, but defeating Prop 19 maintains the crime and punishment. In his “all use is medical” world, we’d be trying, convicting, fining, and imprisoning people for the crime of not getting a doctor’s OK to smoke pot. It reinforces the opponent’s frame that marijuana is dangerous, and controlling that danger is the entire point of anti-Prop 215 prosecutors hauling legit medical marijuana patients in front of a judge. ”We already have legalization,” Dennis? Ask Jovan Jackson, Eugene Davidovich, Felix Kha, Donna Lambert, James Stacy, and any number of prosecuted patients how they feel about this “legalization”.
It’s clear to me that Peron isn’t thinking very clearly on the issue. One reason he gives for defeating Prop 19 is that mass production would lead to less diversity as marijuana is standardized. You know, like how the end of Prohibition led to mass production of beer and the only brews you can get these days are weak Budweiser, Coors, and Miller beers.
Wrong! We have more micro-breweries than ever with more flavors and potencies than ever. We have thousands of Americans who brew their own beer at home. Peron wants you to believe that when marijuana is legal and everybody can grow their own and many cities will allow commercial growing and there will be hundreds, if not thousands of legit commercial grows, there will be less diversity and potency.
Prop 19 means that anyone who wants to grow their own can. Prop 19 means that anyone who wants to smoke pot can. Prop 19 means that some cities in California will license many retail outlets for cannabis. Prop 19 means that all sorts of businesses could become licensed for on-site pot consumption; think of a beachside bed’n'breakfast with blunts, a dark nightclub with dank nugs, or a motel with marijuana and non-marijuana rooms. I can’t think of a single good reason why someone who loves marijuana would oppose more growing, more buying, more selling, and more businesses succeeding from legal marijuana…
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.
…on second thought, I just came up with one reason. When you’ve got one of the only weed-friendly hotels in California, who needs competition?