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Jan. 14, 1981 - Brownie Mary's Home is Raided

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

This Day in Cannabis History:

Regarded by some as "the Florence Nightingale of the medical marijuana movement,” Mary Jane Rathbun—a.k.a. Brownie Mary—was a hospital volunteer and IHOP waitress who began baking cannabis brownies in San Francisco during the 1970s, then distributing them to terminally ill AIDS patients in the 1980s.

Originally selling them out of a basket for a few dollars each, she soon partnered with famed medical marijuana activist Dennis Peron to sell them at his underground proto-dispensary the Big Top Marijuana Market, and was even bold enough to advertise her "magically delicious" brownies on billboards around town.

Once authorities realized what she was up to, it didn't take long for them to intervene. On the night of January 14, 1981, they raided her home—seizing 54 dozen brownies and over 18 pounds of marijuana. Upon opening the door to the police, the 57-year old activist reportedly said, “I thought you guys were coming.”

When her day in court arrived, Brownie Mary pled guilty to nine counts of possession and was sentenced to three years probation and 500 hours of community service. In the decades that followed, Mary would go on to be arrested two more times, as well as help Peron open the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club and campaign to pass Proposition 215 in 1996. Brownie Mary died of a heart attack on April 10, 1999, at the age of 77.


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