THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE Thursday, November 22, 2001 Busted Tourist Vows to Fight Drug Charges BY JACOB SANTINI Californian Dennis Peron packed the necessities for his vacation to southern Utah: a sleeping bag for campouts, his dog for company -- and a stash of marijuana he says he uses to treat his alcoholism. Peron, founder of San Francisco's Cannabis Cultivation Club, was stunned when Cedar City police objected to the marijuana last week and seized it, and arrested him and his friends and booked them into jail. "They overreacted. They should have given me a ticket," insists Peron, 55. "They should have let it go." Now Peron promises to bring his campaign to legalize marijuana for medicinal use to Utah as he fights charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia. It is a natural step -- Peron drafted the 1996 California proposition that legalized marijuana for medical use, and his club was created to grow it for that purpose. "I'm going to make some noise," Peron said this week in a telephone interview from San Francisco. "It's about time someone fought for dying patients." Peron says he is worried that seriously ill tourists who attend the 2002 Olympic Winter Games -- and bring their medical marijuana -- will be "brutalized" by their Utah hosts in February. But Deputy Salt Lake District Attorney Kent Morgan says prescriptions for marijuana are not valid in Utah or anywhere, after a May decision by the U.S. Supreme Court held there is no exception to federal laws that forbid people with cancer, AIDS and other ailments to use marijuana. Eight Western states, including California, Nevada and Colorado, have medical marijuana laws on their books. "You're right; there's no exemption in Utah," Peron concedes, but adds he is looking for a Utah lawmaker to sponsor a medical marijuana law. Meanwhile, he says, he will bring the California physician who prescribed marijuana to him to testify during his preliminary hearing. He faces up to 5 years in prison if convicted of drug possession. Peron and three friends were heading for Zion National Park when they checked into a Cedar City Motel 6 on Nov. 14. Police arrived at about 9:45 a.m. after receiving a tip that marijuana smoke could be smelled in the hallway. Police found nearly a pound of pot in the hotel room and vehicle, Cedar City police Sgt. Dave Holm said. Officers also seized more than $4,500 and charged his companions with possessing marijuana and paraphernalia. Peron says he had, at most, 3 grams of raw marijuana and a sackful of pot-laced dessert. "They're weighing the brownies," he laments. After that night in jail, the group posted bail and headed west. Peron is due to return for his arraignment in December and says he may just check out Zion National Park along the way.