Brownie Mary: The Unsung Hero of Cannabis Advocacy

Brownie Mary

August 25, a day like any other for most. But for the cannabis community, this day holds a special significance. It’s not just another day on the calendar; it’s a day to celebrate, reflect, and light up in honor of a legend: Brownie Mary. 

Who was Brownie Mary

Mary Jane Rathbun who is known as Brownie Mary was born in Minnesota in 1922. She moved to San Francisco in the 1970s. During the height of the AIDS epidemic, Brownie Mary took it upon herself to provide solace and relief to those suffering. She distributed her homemade cannabis brownies to AIDS patients, offering them a respite from the debilitating pain, nausea, and appetite loss they endured. These weren’t just brownies; they were symbols of hope and compassion in a city grappling with a health crisis.She began baking her famous brownies, not for profit, but as a compassionate act. 

Brownie Mary was often recognized by her signature look, which included polyester pants, oversized tinted glasses, and a shock of white hair. She had a grandmotherly appearance, which juxtaposed interestingly with her role as a cannabis activist.She was arrested multiple times, but her spirit remained unbroken. In her own words, Mary once said, “I make them to survive, and I give them away to help others survive.” She became an iconic figure in the cannabis community, not just for her delectable cannabis-infused brownies but for her unwavering advocacy for the medical use of cannabis.

Mary Jane Rathbun’s Fight for Medical Marijuana

Mary’s journey towards helping people in pain wasn’t without its challenges. She faced multiple arrests for her cannabis-related activities. Yet, with each arrest, her resolve only grew stronger. She became a vocal advocate for the medical benefits of cannabis, pushing for its legalization and challenging the stigmas associated with its use. When confronted about her activities, she famously retorted, “I’d rather be in jail than have them suffering and me doing nothing.”

Collaborating with Dr. Donald Abrams, Brownie Mary delved into the scientific realm, working on early medical studies that highlighted the potential benefits of cannabis for AIDS patients. Her firsthand experiences, combined with scientific research, made a compelling case for the medical community and the public at large.

Legislative Triumphs

Brownie Mary’s relentless advocacy bore fruit when she played a pivotal role in the passage of San Francisco’s Proposition P in 1991. This was a significant step towards the eventual legalization of medical marijuana in California with Proposition 215 in 1996. She once remarked, “All I do is bake a world a better place, one brownie at a time.”

A Legacy Celebrated

Imagine you’re chilling with your friends, passing around a joint or enjoying some edibles. Someone brings up the topic of the best edibles they’ve ever had. You might think of The Hemp Doctor gummies or even better, The Hemp Doctor’s Delta 9 THC Kayo brownies. But for many in the 80s and 90s in San Francisco, the answer was clear: Brownie Mary’s magic brownies. In honor of her immense contributions, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors declared August 25 as “Brownie Mary Day.” This day serves as a testament to her enduring impact on the cannabis movement and the countless lives she touched.


Brownie Mary’s story is a testament to the power of compassion, resilience, and advocacy. She was more than just the “brownie lady” of San Francisco; she was a trailblazer who challenged societal norms and paved the way for future generations. Her legacy, a blend of compassion and activism, continues to inspire the cannabis community and beyond.