Who Was Brownie Mary?
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Posted on 28 Sep 2017 19:43

Brownie Mary is probably the only person in history to be arrested on brownie-related charges. On January 14, 1981, the police raided her home and found over fifty dozen marijuana (cannabis) brownies along with over 18 pounds of marijuana yet to be, pardon the pun, baked. Her real name was Mary Jane Rathbun. Her punishment was 500 hours of community service and three years of probation.

As far as Rathbun was concerned, however, community service is exactly what she had been doing. As a hospital volunteer on the AIDS ward (Ward 86) at San Francisco General Hospital California, she had been campaigning for the legal use of medical marijuana and had been distributing her marijuana brownies (aka pot brownies) to HIV/AIDS patients. She didn't give up. Considered a heroine in the efforts to legalize medical marijuana, she was arrested twice more on the same charges

Brownie Mary died in 1999 but she did live to see the legalization of marijuana for medical use in California, in 1996. Even before this, in 1992, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, after working to make marijuana for medical use the lowest legal priority, had declared August 25 "Brownie Mary Day."

In 2016, recreational use of marijuana for adults over 21 was legalized, allowing adults to carry up to one ounce and to grow six plants for their own use, as long as the plants are kept out of public view. Rathbun, along with her friend and fellow activist Dennis Peron, whom she met in 1974, had been instrumental in the legalization of medical marijuana, especially in passing both Proposition P in 1991 and Proposition 215 in 1996.

Along with Peron, she authored Brownie Mary's Marijuana Cook Book/ Dennis Peron's Recipe for Social Change.

For more historical details about the therapeutic use of marijuana for HIV/AIDS, and legalization efforts, see Cannabis Therapeutics in HIV/AIDS by Ethan B. Russo.

1. Clarkson, Janet. Food History Almanac: over 1,300 Years of World Culinary History, Culture, and Social Influence. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.
2. Russo, Ethan. Cannabis Therapeutics in HIV/AIDS. Haworth Integrative Healing Press, 2001.

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