Heroic caregiver who defended her medicinal
cannabis distribution and helped change California
Brownie Mary was an elderly nurse who became well known
around San Francisco for her courageous work as a volunteer
at San Francisco General Hospital. She had been baking
marijuana brownies for AIDS patients, 'her kids', for many
"I know from smoking pot for over 30 years that this is a
medicine that works. It works for the wasting syndrome
&emdash; these kids have no appetite; but when they eat a
brownie, they get out of bed and make themselves some food.
And for chemotherapy, they eat half a brownie before a
session, and when they get out, they eat the other half. It
eases the pain. That's what I'm here to do."
She was arrested three times for her crime of being a
Good Samaritan who took great personal risks to bake up and
deliver free medicine for people with AIDS. Brownie Mary
became a cause celebre for reform and her case was a
rallying cry for advocates of change. San Francisco
proclaimed a day in her honor, and the charges against her
were eventually dropped She was a moving force behind both
San Francisco's medical marijuana initiative, Proposition P,
and later California's statewide medical marijuana
initiative, Prop 215, which is now
part of the state's Health and Safety Code (HS 11362.5).
She also inspired the formation of the San Francisco
Cannabis Buyers Club, and the building that housed it was
dedicated to her and called the Brownie Mary Building.
Unlike some advocates of Medical Marijuana, Brownie Mary
felt that protecting a few patients was just not enough;
that fundamental rights are for everyone, not just a select
few. She stood for freedom of choice for everyone, sick and
healthy alike. To Mary, that always included the right of
adults to smoke marijuana socially and the right of farmers
to grow industrial hemp.
Mary had serious leg problems and eventually had to drop
out of her activism, but continued to lend moral support as
a symbol of enlightened compassion and what one person can
do by standing up against the system of injustice. When she
died in 1999, a memorial was held in the streets of San
Francisco, and even the local District Attorney showed up to
pay his respects and say a few words in honor of this
courageous woman who changed history.