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Cannabis Buyers' Club (S.F., CA) Threatened With Shutdown; Medical Marijuana Bills Moving in California Legislature


May 1995

The San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club shut down for a week in April when members said they observed federal agents conducting surveillance on the club (Bill Eisele, "Marijuana Issue Ablaze," The Independent, Apr. 14, 1995, p. 1; John Batteiger, "Open For Business," San Francisco Bay Guardian, Apr. 19-25, 1995, p. 8; Dennis Conkin, "Cannabis Buyers Tell Feds: Leave Our Medicine Alone," Bay Area Reporter, Apr. 13, 1995, p. 1; Dennis McMillan, "Cannabis Buyers's Club Reopens," San Francisco Sentinel, Apr. 19, 1995, p. 6).

According to Dennis Peron, founder of the Buyers' Club, the Club sells marijuana to about 4,000 people with AIDS, cancer, and other conditions.

Members claimed that they saw federal agents from the FBI and the DEA videotaping customers as they left the Club. One member said men followed him from the Club to an AIDS hospice. Rick Smith, a spokesperson for the FBI San Francisco field office, said he was not aware of the Cannabis Buyers' Club.

Peron said that rumors of a federal raid caused the closing of the Club April 7 through April 14. On April 10, about 300 people rallied for the Club's reopening, prompting statements of support for the Club from Mayor Frank Jordan, members of the city Board of Supervisors, and Police Chief Anthony Ribera.

The threat of closure also drew more attention to pending legislation that would make medical use of marijuana legal in San Francisco and the state of California.

As was reported in the March 1995 NewsBriefs, California Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose) has introduced A.B. 1597, which would allow patients to possess and cultivate marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. In last year's session a similar bill, S.B. 1364, was vetoed by Governor Pete Wilson.

Should A.B. 1597 fail to pass or get vetoed by Wilson, Californians for Compassionate Use is sponsoring a ballot initiative for Nov. 1996 to legalize use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes with a doctor's prescription.

[For more information about the California ballot initiative or the progress of A.B. 1597, contact Californians for Compassionate Use at 3745 17th Street, San Francisco CA, 94114, 415-563-5858 or 415-864-1961.]