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Hero Spotlight: Brownie Mary

Hero Spotlight: Brownie Mary

Mary Jane Rathbun, better known as Brownie Mary, was an American medical cannabis activist best known for handing out medicinal brownies to suffering patients during the beginning of San Francisco’s biggest AIDS crisis.

Brownie Mary baked cannabis-infused brownies in her kitchen and sold them in her Castro neighborhood, a historical haven for the gay community. It was noticing the positive effects on those suffering from AIDS that prompted her to begin handing them out to those in need. The brownies helped increase the appetite and reduced pain, two things direly needed by patients.

She was arrested three times and sentenced to many hours of community service, all of which she spent serving the gay community and working with patients with AIDS. She was 57 at the time of her first arrest.

Among her many achievements, her work and the work of her supporters greatly influenced California’s 1996 initiative to legalize medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation for treatment of diseases like cancer and AIDS.

What began as a simple desire to help her friends in the gay community launched an activism and volunteer career that touched thousands of lives and greatly impacted cannabis legalization efforts, especially here in California.