OBITUARY: ‘Brownie Mary,’ Distributed Pot to AIDS Patients
"Brownie Mary" Rathburn, who spent three decades delivering marijuana-laced brownies to sick people, especially "in the early days of the AIDS epidemic," died yesterday in San Francisco at age 77, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Warren, 4/13). After selling her "magical brownies" for $2 to $4 apiece in the 1970s, "[s]he turned to charitable baking in the 1980s, when the AIDS crisis began to peak among the city's gays, and claimed the lives of many of the young men she had befriended." The Los Angeles Times reports that each Thursday for 16 years, the "gray-haired rebel" would visit the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital "where she volunteered, visiting patients and carrying specimens to the lab." Her baking efforts expanded to "hundreds of brownies every few months." The marijuana was donated anonymously and left on her doorstep, but she paid for the other supplies herself out of her Social Security check. The Times reports that she "gained national attention" after a 1992 arrest, "when police caught her in the act of whipping up her brownies with 2.5 pounds of marijuana at a friend's home in Sonoma County." The charges were dropped because, the district attorney said, the trial "'of the grandmother who bakes pot brownies' would be a media circus" (Woo, Los Angeles Times, 4/13). Marijuana activist Dennis Peron said, "I think she made 134 dozen a month during the heyday, 1984 to 1990. All in her little old kitchen in her subsidized apartment. And you could smell it all through her building. The old ladies there were cool about it; hey, it's San Francisco." Rathburn was arrested three times, for which she spent hundreds of hours of community service with AIDS patients. Her actions created a "groundswell of support" for the eventual passage of Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in California. She and Peron published "Brownie Mary's Marijuana Cookbook" in 1991, including every ingredient but the key recipe. Peron said, "She would never put the famous brownie recipe in it. Now I've got to get the brownie recipe from her safe deposit box, and approach Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, whatever, and sell it and use the proceeds for her 'kids'" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 4/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.