Home > Fifty Five Is The New, Ninety Seven Need Not Be Boring > Ninety Seven Need Not Be Boring

Ninety Seven Need Not Be Boring


Took the day off of blogging and other projects yesterday, this bum back is a pain in all the wrong places! But I’m back now, somewhat rested and smelling like deep heating muscle rub…time to journey inside my head and figure out what Fifty Five means to me today.

Having not personally experienced the age of ninety seven, I don’t really know how that will be. But I have hopes that it will be interesting, like it was for me in 1997…minus the federal incursion!

In January 1997, California’s Compassionate Use Act (Prop 215) was first implemented in San Francisco officially at Dennis Peron’s Cannabis Buyer’s Club on 1444 Market Street. Dubbed the “Five Floor Felony” by the feds (there were actually six if you counted the basement), the club opened with lots of patients, press and potentates.

Having been involved in the Prop 215 campaign, the 1000 crane project and medical cannabis music, we were also at some of the meetings leading up to the event so Jack and I decided to go over to the club to see if we could help out.

Jack ended up helping at the front door. Dennis took me upstairs to the third floor bud bar, along with several of Dennis’ regular staff.

See, even prior to Prop 215 passing, Dennis was helping qualified medical cannabis patients first (for a long time) at his apartment, then 194 Church Street, then finally 1444 Market Street. He’d also operated the Island Restaurant back in the mid ’70s. This had been a cannabis friendly place where “regular folk” could rub shoulders with city officials and everyone could share ideas.

Anyway, there we were, knee deep in the hooplah! I’m sure the front door was just as crazy, but I can only speak from where I was standing…behind the bud bar along with three others, watching the line form as we waited on the medicine to come out from the back. It didn’t take long, but nonetheless the line was about six deep by the time we started checking I.D.s and waiting on patients.

The press was a ton thick, too. I could hear the famous Nikon advancing motor as the reporters cameras flashed at our bud-tending every move. Some of us raised our arms and made false moves a couple of times just to take note that the press was, indeed, capturing our every move. Weird.

As simple dumb luck and location would have it, I served the first official patient that day…I was scared as hell, hoping my weighing skills (honed more in kitchens than on cannabis) were up to the challenge. Apparently they were.

The whole day was incredible…an endless stream of people, many in wheel chairs or on crutches, some with I.V. pics on their arms, some blind with caregiver assistants, senior citizens, people my age and some who, upon first glance may not have seemed disabled; but one look at their doctor’s notes showed things like HIV/Aids, Wasting Syndrome, PTSD, fibromialgia, migrane headaches, etc. They’d been previously screened by our intake department (doctors called and verified) prior to being let up onto the floor so we knew they were legit.

That first day was only the beginning. Throughout the year, we helped thousands of patients, not only with access to their medicine but with things like food, shelter, mental health referrals and volunteer opportunities. During the holidays we served special meals and parties, on Friday nights we hosted the Third Floor Lounge where patients played music, we had Open Mic on Saturday nights.

I went from working at the Bud Bar to working at the Intake Department. While there, we transformed the department from a little crowded room to a comfortable “Intake Cafe” where potential patients could sit comfortably while filling out their paperwork or waiting for their approval. Then they moved me up to Dennis’ office to be one of two secretaries. This is where I really learned about the Medical Cannabis Movement…in the front office, surrounded by incredible activists putting their own lives on the line for the sick and dying of California.

Geo, who had been Dennis’ secretary already for quite some time, showed me the ropes and soon we were steaming ahead with press releases, articles, legislative proposals, archiving and scheduling. And believe me, at 115 to 150 people per week for staff that was a lot of scheduling!

One of my favorite memories of that first year was our Christmas Caroling at the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. We were sitting in the office one evening after a long 9 am to 9 pm day, and John Entwhistle came forth with a project. Let’s write Cannabis Christmas songs, make a card and go sing in front of the BNE. Of course we were going to bring a gift as well…and what else? Cannabis Plants!

It was great fun, but also a very serious action. If there’s one thing this group learned from the ’60s it was that not everything has to be yelling and head bashing in a revolution. Personally I believe we made more headway and gained more public support by being simple and sincere.

That’s not to say there were no hyjinks! While we were singing, the BNE folk barred the door. They wouldn’t answer it when we knocked, wouldn’t even accept our card and gifts! So we continued singing. John disappeared for a while, only to reappear on the roof of the BNE! We all looked up and applauded! It was great!

He managed to get back down, there must have been a fire escape in the back or something, and we left the card and gifts behind. We headed back to the Club and Dennis told everyone how things went.

Naturally there was some news coverage. Some of the staff watched it in Dennis’ office, others on t.v.s scattered throughout the club. Everyone left that evening, singing bits from the Cannabis Christmas Carols…with titles like “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Justice,” “Oh Cannabis Tree,” and “The Twelve Days of Hempmass” to warm the cockles of the patients’ hearts (along with some medicine for over the holiday).

When I hit ninety seven, I’m hoping for some excitement, maybe it doesn’t have to be on the level of constant federal scrutiny, living/working/breathing in a fishbowl atmosphere, but I sure wouldn’t mind a little fire under my feet to keep me dancing!

So that’s what Fifty-Five feels like for me today…let Fifty five be the new Ninety Seven, and let ninety seven be full of things to keep me busy and I wouldn’t mind a few surprises!

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