Created By Long Beach Green Room /
May 13, 2024

Cannabis has played a significant role in the history of the LGBTQAI+ community, particularly during the AIDS pandemic in San Francisco. During this crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, the city became a focal point for advocacy and health care reform, especially concerning the use of medical marijuana to manage symptoms related to HIV/AIDS.

Dennis Peron, an influential cannabis activist, was a key figure in this movement. After witnessing the relief cannabis brought to his partner, who was suffering from AIDS, Peron became a staunch advocate for the medical use of marijuana. He spearheaded efforts to pass legislation that would allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes. His activism culminated in the 1991 passage of San Francisco's Proposition P, a resolution that called on the state government to permit medical marijuana, and later, the groundbreaking 1996 California Proposition 215, which legalized medical cannabis in the state.

"Brownie Mary" Rathbun was another iconic figure during this era. Known for her marijuana-infused brownies, Brownie Mary dedicated herself to baking and distributing these treats free of charge to AIDS patients, providing not just relief from the illness but also a sense of community and support. Her efforts gained widespread attention, highlighting the medical benefits of marijuana and galvanizing public support for its legalization. The Brownie Mary Democrats continue her legacy

Together, Peron and Brownie Mary helped to establish the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public marijuana dispensary in the United States, which served as a safe haven for thousands of AIDS patients to obtain cannabis to help with their symptoms. This club not only provided critical support to those in need but also stood as a symbol of defiance against stringent drug laws and a beacon of hope for future legalization efforts. Watch the short documentary here from 1995 

The legacy of these advocates and the broader movement they spearheaded continues to influence cannabis policy and the integration of marijuana into medical treatment protocols. Their work during the AIDS pandemic in San Francisco remains a testament to the power of grassroots activism in shaping public policy and improving the lives of marginalized communities.

Let’s continue the spirit of the activists who paved the way for safe access for everyone! 

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