By Cyrus Sepahbodi & Laine Hammer
Ever heard of the Mother of Edibles? She’s cooler than the Mother of Dragons, and her name was Brownie Mary. Born Mary Jane Rathbun in Chicago, Illinois in 1922. She was raised in Minneapolis by a Catholic mother, but her passion did not lie in the church. Instead, she got involved in activism and fighting for women’s abortion rights. During World War II, she moved to San Francisco where she met her future husband. They got married, raised their daughter, Peggy, and later divorced. In the 1970s, 22-year-old Peggy died in a car accident.
What does all of this have to do with cannabis? While waitressing at an IHOP, Rathbun began to make cannabis-infused brownies at home and in a supermarket on Castro Street, the epicenter of activism at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Mary’s primary motivation was to help alleviate the symptoms of cancer and AIDS patients through cannabis-infused edibles. Little did she know, her magical brownies would change lives and start a revolution spanning the next six decades into an industry that is growing to this very day.
The Mother of Edibles
In 1974 Rathbun shared a joint with Dennis Peron, an American activist and businessman who became a leader in the movement for the legalization of cannabis, at Cafe Flore in San Francisco, and the rest was history. Peron introduced her to a community of cannabis activists, which led to her status as a pioneer in the cannabis law reform.
Throughout her life as an activist, she was arrested multiple times. She performed community service at the Shanti Project, a nonprofit that supported those with HIV/AIDS. While there, she saw how much pain the patients were in and knew there was a way she could help ease their suffering – cannabis-infused brownies. Her brownies became one of the remedies that kept many patients going, and even amidst arrests, she would continue to make over 600 brownies a day to help relieve many of the patients’ symptoms. Since her daughter passed away, she cared for these kids as if they were her own. Throughout her time making edibles, she never once revealed the recipe. She provided the brownies to patients with HIV/AIDS and cancer as a means to manage their pain. The greatest impact of her legacy was the idea that cannabis can be used as an ingestible – paving the way for the practice of making edibles for the next half a century.
“I know from smoking pot for over thirty years that this is a medicine that works. It works for the wasting syndrome – the 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.”
– Brownie Mary
Cannabis Buyers’ Club
In the early 1990s, Mary helped Peron and his husband, John Entwistle, open up the Cannabis Buyers Club, which then became the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, a beloved dispensary. Today, she is remembered for her support of medical marijuana, extra-oily brownies, co-founding the first cannabis dispensary in the US, and creating inspiration for edibles of all kinds!
What is Prop 215?
Proposition 215, otherwise known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, is a California law permitting the legalization of medical marijuana, despite the normal Food and Drug Administration testing for safety and efficacy. The voter initiative was authored by Brownie Mary’s close friends Dennis Peron and John Entwistle, registered nurse Anna Boyce, attorney Leo Paoli, psychiatrist Tod H. Mikuriya, and other cannabis activists, and allows patients with a valid doctor’s recommendation, and the patients’ designated Primary Caregivers, to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medical use, and has since been expanded to protect a growing system of collective and cooperative distribution.
“We loved to ask her, ‘What’s the recipe?’ and she always made Betty Crocker jokes,” he says. “She once explained it to me: When you’re buying boxes of brownies, look at how much oil the recipe calls for, and go for the one that uses the most oil. But the mystery—the recipe for her brownies—goes to her grave.”
– John Entwistle
Brownies & Beyond
If you’re reading this, then you must know the cannabis industry is booming. Everywhere you look, you can find a new CBD product. Cannabis has changed the face of reducing stress, alleviating discomfort, and managing anxiety. Many people who prefer not to take over-the-counter medications have found comfort with cannabis, and it’s pioneers like Brownie Mary who paved the way for major changes in how we manage our pain and think about plant medicine as the new normal.
At Papa & Barkley, we’re following in Brownie Mary’s footsteps and have created our very first edible: Releaf Gummies. Now you can experience elevated mind and body relief with our functional, healthy edibles made with the whole cannabis plant. Our gummies are made in small batches in Humboldt using natural ingredients and solventless hash-infused coconut oil. They’re sugar-free, gluten-free, keto-friendly, and full spectrum, making them the healthiest, most pure gummies on the California market. Zero-calorie, flavorful, and available in Tart Apple (Vegan), Berry Burst (Vegan), Juicy Orange, and Wild Strawberry. Find them at a local dispensary near you.