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Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in San Francisco

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in San Francisco

Medical marijuana is so widely accepted throughout the United States that 42 out of 50 states have now legalized the use of cannabis to some degree.

SF’s First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Back in 1992 when the nation’s first medical marijuana dispensary officially opened in San Francisco, it was quite a different story. The San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club became the first public marijuana dispensary in the United States during sad times as AIDS continued to devastate the gay community and dispensary owners constantly feared police and political sanctions.


Nearly 30 years later, San Francisco has 35 dual-licensed medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries. The benefits of having a medical marijuana card in states where recreational cannabis is prohibited are obvious. But in a state like California where recreational use is legal, having a medical card means discounted product costs and taxes, higher potency limits, and use by those under the legal recreational age of 21.

Qualifying Conditions

Common qualifying conditions for issuance of medical marijuana cards include: Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn’s Disease, Autism, Sickle Cell Anemia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Cachexia and wasting syndrome, Cancer, Epilepsy and other seizure disorders, Glaucoma, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s Disease, Tourette’s Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), HIV/AIDS, Chronic Pain

Dennis Peron

The father of medical marijuana was San Francisco resident Dennis Peron, who had served in the Air Force in Vietnam where marijuana was plentiful. Peron was already a big-time pot dealer by the time San Francisco was besieged by the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s. He shifted gears from pro-cannabis activism to pushing for compassionate use, which became known as medical marijuana.


One of the detrimental effects of AIDS was unintended weight loss, accompanied by weakness, fever and diarrhea. Not only did cannabis stimulate the appetite in AIDS patients, but it also helped with pain, nausea and depression. The first medical marijuana dispensary was actually set up the same way as the buyers clubs for experimental AIDS drugs like AZT.


San Francisco became the first city in the country to legalize medical marijuana in 1991 thanks to 80% of voters passing Proposition P. Five years later in 1996, California became the nation’s first state to legalize medical marijuana, narrowly passing Proposition 215 with 56% of the vote.

Brownie Mary and Peron Gay Pride Parade Marijuana Float

Brownie Mary

Another famous medical marijuana hero in San Francisco was Brownie Mary. And yes—she got her nickname from making pot brownies. By the early 1980s, she was baking about 50 dozen “magically delicious” brownies a day, including some sold through Peron’s pot shop.


Brownie Mary’s customers were mostly gay men, and when they first began coming down with AIDS, her baked goods became even more popular. People even donated marijuana so she could distribute medicine to sick people free of charge.


Surprisingly, not everyone thought it was a good idea for AIDS activists to align with medical marijuana proponents. This included the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power—called ACT UP, but Peron and Brownie Mary kept fighting until they came around.


The amazing medical marijuana stories that have emerged over the past three decades from the streets of San Francisco are compelling. To learn more, contact Green Dream Cannabis Tours to explore the medical marijuana culture like a local.

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