S.F. Cannabis Buyers' Club Founder Arrested; "Doonesbury" Ridicules the CBC Raid
On October 12, police arrested Dennis Peron, the founder of the Cannabis Buyers' Club (CBC) in San Francisco, and author of Proposition 215 (the medical marijuana initiative) in California (Glen Martin and Maitland Zane, "Pot Measure Author Arrested," San Francisco Chronicle, October 12, 1996, p. 1; Larry D. Hatfield and Eric Brazil, "S.F. pot club leader held on drug charges," San Francisco Examiner, October 12, 1996, p. A1; Associated Press, "Marijuana Club's Founder Arrested," Washington Post, October 12, 1996, p. A15; Jean H. Lee, "Marijuana club founder accused of illegal sales," Chicago Sun-Times, October 12, 1996, p. 38).
Two months after California Attorney General Dan Lungren shut down the CBC and confiscated more than 100 pounds of marijuana, Peron was arrested at his home and charged with criminal conspiracy and with possession, transportation and sale of marijuana. The indictment was obtained in Alameda County, across the bay from San Francisco, where prosecutors hope to find a less sympathetic jury. At a news conference in Los Angeles, Lungren said five other people allegedly associated with the CBC were being sought on the same charges. On October 12, a judge released Peron on his own recognizance from the Alameda County Jail.
The indictment against Peron stems from the August 4 raid of the CBC by the California Bureau of Narcotics enforcement, after a two-year investigation of the organization. The CBC, which had been operating with the tacit approval of local authorities since 1991, provided "medical" marijuana to people with cancer, AIDS and other diseases. Lungren alleges that the club was providing marijuana to minors and those without a prescribed medical condition, charges which Peron denies ("State Agents Raid Cannabis Buyers' Club in San Francisco," NewsBriefs, September 1996).
Critics accuse Lungren of timing the arrest before the November 5th election in order to remove Peron from campaigning for Proposition 215, which would legalize the medical use of marijuana ("Medical Marijuana Initiative Qualifies for November 5th Ballot in California, Court Says Opponents Were 'Misleading,'" NewsBriefs, September 1996). Lungren, who has been an active opponent of the medical marijuana measure, denied that the timing was politically motivated. San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan disagreed, saying, "I think he's doing it with an eye to his campaign against Proposition 215 and his ambitions for higher office."
Lungren's raid on the CBC, which brought considerable public criticism on the Attorney General, was lampooned by Cartoonist Garry Trudeau in two six-day series of the Doonesbury comic strip (October 7-12 and 21-26). Lungren said the comic strip is corrupting our youth and should be "canceled" or should be run with a disclaimer. He said the cartoon uses "misinformation in an attempt to lend credibility to the Cannabis Buyers' Club and, by extension, to the Proposition 215 campaign." Trudeau refused comment, but said, "I'll let the cartoons speak for themselves." The cartoon ran in 1,400 newspapers (Greg Lucas, "Lungren Isn't Laughing," San Francisco Chronicle, October 2, 1996, p. A1; Daniel E. Lungren, "Doonesbury and the Pot Initiative," San Francisco Chronicle, October 2, 1996, p. A19; Jennifer Warren, "Lungren Fumes Over Satire in 'Doonesbury,'" Los Angeles Times, October 2, 1996, p. A3; Tim Golden, "California Law Chief Takes Drug Fight to 'Doonesbury,'" New York Times, October 3, 1996, p. A14; Linda Kanamine, "California's drawn-out drug debate," USA Today, October 3, 1996, p. 6A).