Mary Jane Rathbun High Times

ANJA Presents: The Saintly Pot Brownie Activist

Ashley Robins
March 06, 2023

“They can't drop the charges without saying I haven't done anything wrong. And if they do that, I'm going to ask for my marijuana back.” - Mary Jane [Brownie Mary] Rathbun

Mary Jane Rathbun

Mary Jane Rathbun, also known as Brownie Mary, was an American activist who gained notoriety for her work as a volunteer at San Francisco General Hospital, where she would bake and distribute cannabis brownies to AIDS patients in the 1980s. Rathbun was born on December 22, 1922, in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in Minneapolis. Her mother, a conservative Irish Catholic, named her "Mary Jane". She was raised in Minneapolis, where she attended Catholic school. At the age of 13, she was involved in an altercation with a nun who tried to cane her, but Rathbun fought back. This incident set the tone for her future activism, where she learned from an early age to stand her ground and defend her values.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the AIDS crisis was devastating communities around the world, and San Francisco was one of the epicenters of the epidemic. At the time, AIDS was a highly stigmatized and misunderstood disease, and many people – including some healthcare professionals – were afraid of contracting it or associating with those who had it. This led to discrimination and mistreatment of AIDS patients, who were often isolated and shunned by society.

AIDS patients faced many challenges in the 1980s, including difficulty accessing healthcare and treatment, discrimination in employment and housing, and social isolation. Many people with AIDS lost friends and family members who were afraid to associate with them, which further contributed to their isolation and feelings of loneliness.

Rathbun saw the suffering of AIDS patients and believed that they should have access to any treatment that could help them. She saw the benefits of cannabis for many of the patients she worked with, including its ability to stimulate appetite, reduce nausea, and relieve pain. She was a compassionate and dedicated caregiver who saw the value of providing comfort and support to those in need.

Rathbun's work with AIDS patients also helped to bring attention to the larger issue of healthcare access and affordability, particularly for marginalized communities. She believed that everyone, regardless of their income or social status, should have access to quality healthcare and that medical cannabis was one way to provide relief for those who were suffering. However, her advocacy for medical cannabis also posed legal risks, as possession and distribution of cannabis was illegal in the state of California at the time.

Despite the risks, Brownie Mary continued to bake and distribute brownies until her death in 1999. She was arrested multiple times for her activism and faced legal consequences for her actions, including fines and community service. However, she was undeterred and continued to advocate for the rights of medical cannabis patients.

In recognition of her work as an advocate for medical cannabis and AIDS patients, Rathbun was awarded the Certificate of Honor by the city of San Francisco in 1992. In addition to her work with AIDS patients, Rathbun also provided cannabis to cancer patients and others suffering from chronic pain. She believed that cannabis should be accessible to all who could benefit from it. 

Brownie Mary's activism and advocacy helped to bring attention to the benefits of medical cannabis and its ability to alleviate the suffering of those in need. Her legacy continues to inspire a generation of activists and advocates who fight for the rights of medical cannabis patients today. ANJA, a recreational dispensary, recognizes the work she did to make our retail store possible, and we have the utmost respect for her dedication to providing comfort and support to those in need. 

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