Medical Pot Club to Reopen as Co-Op
Dennis Peron, whose marijuana buyers club was raided in August by state narcotics officers, says he will reopen the club in January as a cooperative that will cultivate and sell marijuana for medical purposes to owner-members.
Peron, who with five club officials was arrested during the raid and still faces several felony charges of distributing marijuana, said he is confident that the state’s case against him will be dismissed before the club’s scheduled Jan. 15 reopening.
“They spent $2 million proving that I sell marijuana to sick people,” Peron said. “No judge or jury is going to convict me for that.”
A longtime crusader for the medical use of marijuana, Peron co-authored Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative passed by California voters in November.
The initiative decriminalized the cultivation and use of marijuana by chronically ill patients with a recommendation or prescription from a doctor. It also said that authorized “caregivers” may cultivate the plant for patients who are too ill to grow it themselves.
Peron said he has contracted with three private growers in Mendocino County to cultivate marijuana for his club. He declined to name the growers, but said one is an AIDS patient and the others have relatives who are suffering from AIDS or cancer.
“These are people who have high moral character and connections to the community. They are not going to get rich,” Peron said. “We will reimburse them for their expenses and they will make a decent salary. That is all.”
Peron said members of his reconstituted club will sign over their cultivation rights, then pay a membership fee to cover expenses in growing the plants. That fee will assure them a medical supply of marijuana. The club has not yet determined the membership fee.
Peron said such a system eventually will lower the price of marijuana, which he said is selling for about $10 an ounce for lower grades on the street.
“My goal is to cut the price in half within a year,” Peron said. “To do that, we have to start cultivating; that is the only way the price is ever going to come down.”
Peron appears set on a collision course with his political nemesis, California Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren. In a Sacramento meeting with police and prosecutors last week, Lungren said the state will still prosecute growers.
A spokesman for Lungren declined to comment Tuesday on Peron’s plans.
“We really can’t comment because there is an ongoing criminal prosecution,” said press secretary Steve Telliano.
Peron said he is convinced that a temporary restraining order that was issued after the August raid that forbids the Cannabis Buyers’ Club from functioning will soon be lifted. He and his co-defendants are due back in court Tuesday, when their appeal to have their cases transferred from Alameda County to San Francisco County will be heard.
Peron’s club, which he said had 12,000 members before the raid, was praised by city officials, including Mayor Willie Brown and Dist. Atty. Terrence Hallinan, for helping many of the city’s AIDS patients and other ill people who used medical marijuana.