Cannabis Buyers' Clubs

In San Francisco, there is a place that sells 40 pounds of marijuana per week to eight thousand people -- over the counter.

Since 1991, dozens of "cannabis buyers' clubs" have sprung up in the U.S. to sell marijuana for medical purposes. The buyers' clubs are modeled after clubs set up by AIDS victims to purchase experimental drugs from abroad that were not yet approved in the U.S.

The first buyers' club was opened by an HIV-positive man in Washington, D.C., to supply marijuana to AIDS patients suffering from wasting syndrome. Marijuana has proven to be medically useful against a variety of ailments, from glaucoma to lack of appetite. The clubs require photo identification and a letter of recommendation from a physician, and call the physician to verify the recommendation.

In 1995, the San Francisco club was the largest, with nearly 8,000 members and approximately $60,000 in weekly sales. The director, Dennis Peron, worked to help legalize medical marijuana in California. (It did in 1996.)

Local authorities generally tolerate or actively sanction the clubs, but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency does not, making three club-related arrests in 1995.

Sources: November 30, 1995, post to Libernet by the Marijuana Policy Project, and February 24, 1996, New York Times News Service article, "A marijuana club helps those in pain."