The cannabis culture is developing an interesting future that is building the foundation of the industry; leading the industry to future success. Let’s not forget the history that created that foundation. Marijuana, weed, ganja, flower or bud; cannabis has adapted some unique names over history. At one point or another, you’ve heard cannabis referred to as ‘Mary Jane’. Do you know why we call cannabis ‘Mary Jane’?
Mary Jane Rathbun’s mark in the cannabis culture was so recognized, her name is one of the top used nicknames for cannabis. Born December 22nd, 1922 and passed April 10th, 1999, she devoted her life to her belief in cannabis. Mary Jane was there in the beginning; she witnessed the derogatory change cannabis endeared. She was 13yrs old when cannabis first became illegal by the ruthless, Harry Anslinger. He hired forty doctors to research the health effects of cannabis on the human body; thirty-nine doctors concluded cannabis wasn’t a health risk. Harry Anslinger still went ahead and changed the name cannabis to marijuana, made it an illegal narcotic, and manipulated the public into believing cannabis was evil.
Mary Jane was a waitress, baker, hospital volunteer, and activist. She worked as a waitress to pay for her baking supplies and she baked cannabis infused brownies to consume and sell. Mary Jane’s brownies were baked in her small kitchen of her home in a housing project for the elderly, located in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco. She called them ''original recipe brownies'' and ''magically delicious”. Mary Jane spent any remaining time volunteering for the San Francisco General Hospital. She would walk up and down the hallways, handing out cannabis brownies to patients. Among those who were chronically ill, she noticed a decrease in pain and nausea after consuming the cannabis brownies. Mary Jane realized the cannabis helped the patients eat and gain weight. This inspired her to begin making trips to local cancer and AIDS wards. As she became known, growers began donating cannabis toward her brownie supply fund; often leaving the cannabis on the door step anonymously. Mary Jane was arrested three times and was ordered to perform hundreds of hours of community service, which she spent with AIDS and cancer patients. The first time she was busted the police confiscated; 35 lbs of margarine, 50 lbs of flour and sugar, 22 dozen eggs, 21,000 sq ft of plastic wrap, and 20 lbs of high-grade cannabis. She told media that the police had insulted her by suggesting that she would put margarine in the brownies. “The narcs may not know any better,” she fumed, “but that was the finest quality butter.” When she was arrested the third time a formidable group of lawyers came to her defense, plus Mary Jane defied a judge's threat of contempt by wearing her cannabis-leaf lapel pin in court while lawyers argued for her right to dress as she pleased. The charges were dropped.
In the 1990s, she began campaigning for the cannabis legalization alongside Dennis Peron, another cannabis activist she met at Cafe Flore in 1974. She was a familiar face at meetings usually wearing cannabis-themed outfits and always with her token gold cannabis-leaf necklace or cannabis leaf lapel pin. In 1991, Proposition P passed with 76% of the city’s vote. Stating that physicians would not be penalized for prescribing cannabis. Five years later, voters passed Proposition 215, making California the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes. “I know from smoking pot for over 30 years that this is a medicine that works,” Mary Jane told the Associated Press in a 1992 interview. “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.” When Mary Jane spoke of her ‘kids’ she was referring to the many young patients suffering from AIDS and cancer.
Mary Jane’s work with cancer and AIDS patients also caught the attention of medical professionals. In 1997, doctors Donald Abrams (from UCSF) and Rick Doblin (of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) published the study “Short-Term Effects of Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-1 Infection.” It stated that “marijuana did not hurt the immune system, did not increase viral load, did not negatively interact with the protease inhibitors, and actually did facilitate increased caloric intake as well as weight gain.” This study marked the first attempt to study cannabis’s effects on people with HIV, and at the time, it was one of the most comprehensive studies done about the effects of cannabis on the immune system.
Eventually, Mary Jane’s own health problems caught up with her; a bad case of osteoarthritis, combined with colon cancer and artificial knees forced her into retirement. Three years before her death, she co-authored a cookbook with Peron, Brownie Mary’s Marijuana Cookbook and Dennis Peron’s Recipe for Social Change, which you can still buy online today. But her famous brownie recipe is not included. Mary Jane told The New York Times; “When and if they legalize it, I’ll sell my brownie recipe to Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines, and take the profits and buy an old Victorian for my kids with AIDS.” But the recipe is still missing. Let’s think fondly of Mary Jane’s legacy, and all she’s done for our cannabis movement. Let’s rewrite cannabis story by recognizing its history and providing a new future for the cannabis industry.
Just for fun, try out this recipe and hopefully it’s “Magically Delicious”
Cannabis Brownies (not Mary Jane’s Recipe)
1 ⅛ cup canna butter
½ cup 70% dark chocolate, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ tsp salt
First, make the canna butter. Combine 1 cup water, 1 pound unsalted butter, and 1 ½ ounces of ground cannabis flower in a slow cooker. Simmer on low for eight hours, stirring occasionally. (The longer the simmer, the more cannabinoids will be released.) Once fully simmered, use a cheesecloth or fine strainer to filter out any plant products. Refrigerate in a covered container. If water separates, discard it.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a nine-inch-by-nine-inch cake tin, and line it with baking paper. Heat the canna butter over low heat, and when mostly melted, add the chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Remove from heat, stir in sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, and add vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients, mix thoroughly, then pour into your cake tin. Bake for 40 minutes, then let cool before consuming.
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