MMJ? Thank LGBTQ+ Activists

by RISE Mag

July 6, 2018

Medicinal cannabis is a treatment path taken by thousands. And many wouldn’t have the same access to MMJ without the dedicated, inspiring efforts of Dennis Peron, Mary Jane Rathbun, the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, and more, and their fight to help a queer community devastated by the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s.

POST-STONEWALL, THEY WERE READY FOR A FIGHT

 

Senators? Nope. A rich and powerful lobby group? Think again.

 

If you’re a medical marijuana patient, you can thank the brave group of grassroots LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS activists that fought for MMJ in the 1980s and 90s — a fact that’s often forgotten as the cannabis industry keeps growing.

 

For many AIDS patients, cannabis helped ease the side effects of both the virus itself and of AZT, the prohibitively expensive first treatment for the virus, that often made people feel even worse.

 

And considering the AIDS crisis arrived just about a decade after NYC’s Stonewall Riots and LA’s LGBTQ+ activism, the community was organizing and preparing to fight for access.

 

A HERO TO THE QUEER AND HIV/AIDS COMMUNITY: DENNIS PERON, 1946-2018

 

Passing away in January 2018, Dennis Peron was a major factor in why the United States has medical marijuana available today.

 

Peron first tried cannabis while in the Air Force in the 1960s, and when he returned from Vietnam with 2lbs of pot, a life of activism was born.

 

Settling into San Francisco’s gay community, by the time the HIV/AIDS crisis was swelling (and especially after his partner died from the virus in 1990), Peron leveled up. He founded the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the first-ever public dispensary in the U.S, and co-wrote Proposition 215, establishing a medical marijuana plan for California that lives on today.

 

Read more about Peron’s extraordinary life.

 

A COMPASSION CLUB LIKE NO OTHER

 

For those who lived during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s, the memories of fallen friends are still painful.

 

But what stands out against the pain, writes Ashley Manta, is the compassion and care that so many offered at the time, in the form of medical cannabis to help ease the side effects of the virus.

 

Foundation to this compassionate care, and integral to the passing of California’s medical cannabis legalization, was the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public dispensary in the U.S.

 

Explore the club’s creation, and how its founders/allies would come to write Proposition 215 — the policy establishing California’s MMJ laws.

 

THE FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE OF WEED

 

Picture a hospital ward in 1980s San Francisco, where the AIDS crisis was claiming thousands of lives.

 

Now, picture a woman walking up and down the halls, passing out cannabis-laced brownies to those with the virus.

 

One of the first cannabis activists to emerge in the 70s, Mary Jane Rathbun — aka “Brownie Mary” — started selling her “special” baking to supplement her waitressing income, and to share her love of cannabis.

 

Noticing that her brownies reduced pain and nausea in those with the virus, Mary started visiting AIDS wards with her goods, and by the 90s (and despite 3 arrests), started campaigning for cannabis legalization alongside noted activist — and San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club co-founder — Dennis Peron.

 

Get Brownie Mary’s fascinating backstory, and learn how she was fundamental to the passing of California’s Proposition 215.

 

HONORING THE MEMORY OF ‘BROWNIE MARY’

 

Better known to cannabis and HIV/AIDS activists of the 1980s and 90s as “Brownie Mary, ” Mary Jane Rathbun distributed cannabis-infused brownies to the AIDS patients of San Francisco General Hospital’s Ward 86, helping ease many of the debilitating side effects of the virus in patients.

 

Today, Mary’s legacy continues with the Brownie Mary Democratic Club, dedicated to working on cannabis policy within the Democratic Party, with specific focus on patients’ rights, education, and activism.