Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Peter Brooker/Shutterstock (221195c). Mary Rathburn with Dennis Peron.  MARY RATHBUN WHO SUPPLIED MARIJUANA TO AIDS VICTIMS – 1993


On December 22, 1922 a girl was born in Chicago.  The parents, Irish-Catholic and conservative in their views, named their baby Mary Jane. They had no irony in mind, but it would turn out to be exactly that.

Mary Jane Rathburn grew up in Minneapolis and attended a Catholic grammar school. As was the case in many schools during the 30s, teachers physically punished recalcitrant students.  The problem with caning a recalcitrant student is they might fight back.

Mary Jane did. Mary Jane left school. Mary Jane left home. Mary Jane became a waitress, a job that would be her primary one for most of her life. At least the primary one if someone asked her, “So what do you do for a living?”

Mary Jane was far more than a waitress.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Early activism

She campaigned for the right of miners to form unions. In the late 1940s, she worked as an activist promoting abortion rights for Minneapolis women.

In between, during World War II and living in San Francisco, she married, had a baby in 1955, and named her Peggy. Divorced, Mary Jane  and Peggy moved to Reno, Nevada. In  1974, a drunk driver hit and killed Peggy.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

San Francisco again

Mary Jane moved back to San Francisco.

In 1974 she met fellow activist Dennis Peron at Cafe Flore. They shared a joint.

Cafe Flore was in the Castro district, a largely gay area of San Francisco. During the war, the armed services dishonorably discharged soldiers found to be gay and many of those discharges took place at the port of San Francisco. Many stayed.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Becoming Brownie Mary

In  the late 1970s Mary Jane began to supplement her income by baking brownies. She decided that adding marijuana to her brownies would make them what she described as “magically delicious.”

Mary Jane was not the first to use cannabis as an ingredient. Humans had been using it for centuries. Most famously in the west was the Alice B Toklas’s fudge recipe that was included in her 1954 cookbook.

In 1981 the law caught up with Mary.  It raided her apartment and hauled away “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.”

Mary was upset they said it was margarine. She said she only used the best butter.

In order to pay for her legal defense, she sold her belongings – including the kitchen table.

A judge sentenced her to 500 hours of community service which she willingly completed by working at a hospital with young men who were dying of the yet-unnamed AIDS.

For the rest of her life she continued to minister to AIDS patients and providing for some relief by bringing her increasingly famous brownies. She bought nearly all the ingredients with her own money. Somehow, the marijuana appeared for free from generous growers.

Two other arrests occurred, but her reputation of assistance led to a lenient sentence. The last charge was dropped.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Medical Marijuana

As the AIDS crisis grew and the use of cannabis demonstrated its  obvious and effective analgesic properties, Brownie Mary became increasingly involved in the Proposition P campaign to recommend its legalization for medicinal use in San Francisco in 1991.  She received a standing ovation at its hearings.

The proposition passed overwhelmingly but not until 1996’s passage of Proposition 215 was the recommendation legalized.

In 2008 the medical marijuana group “Americans for Safe Access” estimated that California had more than 200,000 doctor-qualified medical cannabis users.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

 San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

In 1992 San Francisco declared a ‘Brownie Mary Day’  to honor her work with dying patients in the AIDS ward. 5,000 people rallied in her praise.

That same year, she and Dennis Peron founded the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club. The Buyers Club was meant to provide a place for safe distribution of medical cannabis to people with cancer, AIDS,  and other diseases. Akin somewhat to the Prohibition speakeasies of the 1920s, the product was illegal and raids regular.

Just weeks before the Prop 215 vote, police arrested Dennis Peron.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Disabilities catch up

By the mid-1990s, arthritic knees forced her to retire but she continued to bake and support positive marijuana legislation.

A Marijuana dot com article said, “Her sympathies were always with the underdog, the poor, the busted and the downtrodden,” John Entwistle Jr., a former legalization advocate and longtime friend of Rathbun, told “One could see that she had overcome tremendous difficulties in her own life and that created a natural empathy and sense of compassion for others that was tangible and sincere.”

Brownie Mary  died of a heart attack at age 76 on April 10, 1999.

On April 17, 300 people, including her friend, district attorney Terence Hallinan, attended a candlelight vigil held in her honor in the Castro.

Hallinan told a crowd of several hundred people gathered at her memorial that she was a hero who will “one day be remembered as the Florence Nightingale of the medical marijuana movement.”

Friend and partner activist Dennis Peron said, “I figure right now she’s making a deal with God: If you let me in, I’ll make you a dozen brownies on the house.’ ”

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

COVID 19 Pandemic Begins

COVID 19 Pandemic Begins

Someone once described the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as happening in slow motion. It certainly seemed so at first. Here in the United States the initial report of a deadly virus in distant China was just that: distant news. Of passing interest, perhaps, but too far from home to be meaningful.

Even China’s initial reports minimized the disease’s danger and criticized those who, like Dr Li Wenliang. raised dire warnings.

This is a long chronology of a hideous sickness that most thought would be brief and harmless to most. I am dividing these posts into months and even with that each post is lengthy.

December 2019

In March 2020, the South Morning China Post reported that a 55-year-old individual from Hubei province in China may have been the first person to have contracted COVID-19 and that that case dates back to Nov. 17, 2019, but that was in March after thousands had already died.

COVID 19 Pandemic

December 6: according to a study in The Lancet, the symptom onset date of the first patient identified was “Dec 1, 2019 . . . 5 days after illness onset, his wife, a 53-year-old woman who had no known history of exposure to the market, also presented with pneumonia and was hospitalizein the isolation ward.” In other words, as early as the second week of December, Wuhan doctors were finding cases that indicated the virus was spreading from one human to another.

December 21: Wuhan doctors begin to notice a “cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause.

December 25: Chinese medical staff in two hospitals in Wuhan are suspected of contracting viral pneumonia and are quarantined. This is additional strong evidence of human-to-human transmission. Sometime in “Late December”: Wuhan hospitals notice “an exponential increase” in the number of cases that cannot be linked back to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

COVID 19 Pandemic Begins

Dr. Li Wenliang

December 30: Dr. Li Wenliang sent a message to a group of other doctors warning them about a possible outbreak of an illness that resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), urging them to take protective measures against infection.

December 31: The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission declared, “The investigation so far has not found any obvious human-to-human transmission and no medical staff infection.” This is the opposite of the belief of the doctors working on patients in Wuhan, and two doctors were already suspected of contracting the virus.

Three weeks after doctors first started noticing the cases, China contacted the World Health Organization.

COVID 19 Pandemic Begins

January 2020

January 1, 2020: Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market closes.

Dr Wenliang apologizes

The Wuhan Public Security Bureau issued summons to Dr. Li Wenliang, accusing him of “spreading rumors.” Two days later, at a police station, Dr. Li signed a statement acknowledging his “misdemeanor” and promising not to commit further “unlawful acts.”

Seven other people are arrested on similar charges and their fate was unknown.

January 1: the World Health Organization set up the IMST (Incident Management Support Team) across the three levels of the organization: headquarters, regional headquarters and country level, putting the organization on an emergency footing for dealing with the outbreak.

Human to human transmission

January 2: One study of patients in Wuhan can only connect 27 of 41 infe cted patients to exposure to the Huanan seafood market — indicating human-to-human transmission away from the market. A report written later that month concludes, “evidence so far indicates human transmission for 2019-nCoV. We are concerned that 2019-nCoV could have acquired the ability for efficient human transmission.”

January 3: The Chinese government continued efforts to suppress all information about the virus: “China’s National Health Commission, the nation’s top health authority, ordered institutions not to publish any information related to the unknown disease, and ordered labs to transfer any samples they had to designated testing institutions, or to destroy them.

January 4: While Chinese authorities continued to insist that the virus could not spread from one person to another, doctors outside that country weren’t so convinced. The head of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection, Ho Pak-leung, warned that “the city should implement the strictest possible monitoring system for a mystery new viral pneumonia that has infected dozens of people on the mainland, as it is highly possible that the illness is spreading from human to human.”

January 4: the World Health organization reported on social media that there was a cluster of pneumonia cases – with no deaths – in Wuhan, Hubei province.

January 5: The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission put out a statement with updated numbers of cases but repeated, “preliminary investigations have shown no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission and no medical staff infections.

The WHO reported a “pneumonia of unknown cause” in Wuhan, China.

The health organization advised against restrictions to China: “WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on China based on the current information available on this event.”

COVID 19 Pandemic Begins

COVID 19 Pandemic

January 6: The New York Times published its first report about the virus, declaring that “59 people in the central city of Wuhan have been sickened by a pneumonia-like illness.” That first report included these comments:

Wang Linfa, an expert on emerging infectious diseases at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, said he was frustrated that scientists in China were not allowed to speak to him about the outbreak. Dr. Wang said, however, that he thought the virus was likely not spreading from humans to humans because health workers had not contracted the disease. “We should not go into panic mode,” he said.

January 8: Chinese medical authorities claimed to have identified the virus. Those authorities claimed and Western media continue to repeat, “there is no evidence that the new virus is readily spread by humans, which would make it particularly dangerous, and it has not been tied to any deaths.

January 9: The WHO released a statement announcing the source of the disease: “Chinese authorities have made a preliminary determination of a novel (or new) coronavirus, identified in a hospitalized person with pneumonia in Wuhan.”

It added: “In the coming weeks, more comprehensive information is required to understand the current status and epidemiology of the outbreak, and the clinical picture.” [NPR timeline}

Dr. Li Wenliang

January 10: After unknowingly treating a patient with the coronavirus, Dr. Li Wenliang started coughing and developed a fever.


January 10: the World Health Organization issued a comprehensive package of technical guidance online with advice to all countries on how to detect, test and manage potential cases, based on what was known about the virus at the time. This guidance was shared with WHO’s regional emergency directors to share with WHO representatives in countries.

Based on experience with SARS and MERS and known modes of transmission of respiratory viruses, infection and prevention control guidance were published to protect health workers recommending droplet and contact precautions when caring for patients, and airborne precautions for aerosol generating procedures conducted by health workers

Wuhan City Health Commission

January 11: The Wuhan City Health Commission issued an update declaring, “All 739 close contacts, including 419 medical staff, have undergone medical observation and no related cases have been found . . . No new cases have been detected since January 3, 2020. At present, no medical staff infections have been found, and no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found.” They issue a Q&A sheet later that day reemphasizing that “most of the unexplained viral pneumonia cases in Wuhan this time have a history of exposure to the South China seafood market. No clear evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found.

January 12, 2020: Dr. Li Wenliang hospitalized. China publicly  shared the genetic sequence of COVID-19.

COVID 19 Pandemic Begins

First case outside China

January 13: The first coronavirus case outside China reported in Thailand.  Authorities there detected the virus in a 61-year-old Chinese woman who was visiting from Wuhan, the first case outside of China.

Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health, said the woman had not visited the Wuhan seafood market, and had come down with a fever on Jan. 5. However, the doctor said, the woman had visited a different, smaller market in Wuhan, in which live and freshly slaughtered animals were also sold.

January 14: Wuhan city health authorities release another statement declaring, “Among the close contacts, no related cases were found.” Wuhan doctors had known this was false since early December, from the first victim and his wife, who did not visit the market.

Based on the official announcement, The World Health Organization tweeted: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan#China.” [NPR timeline]

January 15: Japan reported its first case of coronavirus. Japan’s Health Ministry said the patient had not visited any seafood markets in China, adding that “it is possible that the patient had close contact with an unknown patient with lung inflammation while in China.”

January 17: The CDC and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection announced that travelers from Wuhan to the United States would undergo entry screening for symptoms associated with 2019-nCoV at three U.S. airports that received most of the travelers from Wuhan, China: San Francisco, New York (JFK), and Los Angeles.

Trump more interested in vaping

COVID 19 Pandemic
Health and Human Services  Secretary Alex M Azar

January 18: Health and Human Services  Secretary Alex M Azar had his first discussion about the virus with President Trump. Unnamed “senior administration officials” told the Washington Post that “the president interjected to ask about vaping and when flavored vaping products would be back on the market.

Despite the fact that Wuhan doctors knew the virus was contagious, city authorities allowed 40,000 families to gather and share home-cooked food in a Lunar New Year banquet.

January 19: The Chinese National Health Commission declared the virus “still preventable and controllable.” The World Health Organization updated its statement, declaring, “Not enough is known to draw definitive conclusions about how it is transmitted, the clinical features of the disease, the extent to which it has spread, or its source, which remains unknown.”

January 20: The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission declared for the last time in its daily bulletin, “no related cases were found among the close contacts.

January 20 – 21: WHO experts from its China and Western Pacific regional offices conducted a brief field visit to Wuhan. [mission summary]

COVID 19 Pandemic Begins

First US case

January 21: The CDC announced the first U.S. case of a the coronavirus in a Snohomish County, Washington resident who returned from China six days earlier.

By this point, millions of people had left Wuhan, carrying the virus all around China and into other countries.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

January 22: WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus continued to praise China’s handling of the outbreak. “I was very impressed by the detail and depth of China’s presentation. I also appreciate the cooperation of China’s Minister of Health, who I have spoken with directly during the last few days and weeks. His leadership and the intervention of President Xi and Premier Li have been invaluable, and all the measures they have taken to respond to the outbreak.”

COVID 19 Pandemic


January 22: President Trump, in an interview with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, declared, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.

January 23: Chinese authorities announced their first steps for a quarantine of Wuhan. By this point, millions had already visited the city and left it during the Lunar New Year celebrations. Singapore and Vietnam reported their first cases, and an unknown but significant number of Chinese citizens had traveled abroad as asymptomatic, oblivious carriers.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that it was too early to declare the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. “Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”

January 24: Vietnam reported person-to-person transmission, and Japan, South Korea, and the U.S reported their second cases. The second case was in Chicago.

Within two days, new cases were reported in Los Angeles, Orange County, and Arizona. The virus was in now in several locations in the United States, and the odds of preventing an outbreak had dwindled to zero.


January 28: a senior WHO delegation led by the Director-General travelled to Beijing to meet China’s leadership, learn more about China’s response, and to offer any technical assistance.

While in Beijing, Dr. Tedros agreed with Chinese government leaders that an international team of leading scientists would travel to China on a mission to better understand the context, the overall response, and exchange information and experience.

January 29: Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said, “The whole world needs to be on alert now. The whole world needs to take action and be ready for any cases that come from the epicenter or other epicenter that becomes established.” [NPR timeline]

COVID 19 Pandemic Begins

WHO declaration

COVID 19 Pandemic

January 30: the World Health Organization Amid officially declared a “public health emergency of international concern.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that it would continue to work with the W.H.O. and other countries to protect public health.

That same day, Trump addressed the coronavirus during a speech on trade in Michigan.

We think we have it very well under control,” Trump said. “We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five — and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us.”

Hopefully it won’t be as bad as some people think it could be,” he added.

January 31: Trump blocked travel from China. The same night, he held a campaign rally in Iowa.

COVID 19 Pandemic Begins

Subsequent COVID 19 posts:

COVID 19 Pandemic Begins

Beatle Geoff Emerick

Beatle Geoff Emerick

5 December 1945 – 2 October 2018

When it comes to the most important people who occupied the Beatles inner circle for music, the obvious choices are Brian Epstein, their manager, and George Martin, their producer. Some would add Billy Preston.

Beatle Geoff Emerick

What were you doing at 16?

Geoff Emerick was born in London. His father was a butcher, his mother a homemaker.

From the NY Times: As he grew older he became interested in the electronics behind the record player and radio he listened to, and as a teenager he made a fateful trip to an annual trade show where the latest technology was on display.

The BBC was doing a live orchestral broadcast, and young Geoff was particularly fascinated by the fellow at the mysterious console who was turning knobs and dials — the sound engineer, he would come to learn. He would soon tell his school guidance counselor that he was interested in a job in that field; it was the counselor who first heard about the job opening at EMI.

He did apply.  He did get it. He was 16 and it was September 2, 1962.

Two  days later, the Beatles came to EMI Studios for their second recording session. Wanting to learn the ropes, Emerick sat in to watch them  recording How Do You Do It and Love Me Do.

Beatle Geoff Emerick

What Were You Doing at 17?

He first worked with the group on 20 February 1963, when he was tape operator on an overdub session for ‘Misery’ and ‘Baby It’s You’.  Emerick worked as an assistant engineer under Norman Smith on several of the Beatles’ early recordings, including “She Loves You” [1 July 1963] and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” [17 October 1963] .

From early in 1964, his involvement with the band was limited due to his training program at EMI, He progressed to lacquer cutter, mastering engineer and then balance (or recording) engineer.

During that time, he helped record other artists for the label, including Judy Garland, and assisted at the EMI artist test of the Hollies.

 After working his way up to the recording engineer’s position, Emerick engineered the 1966 Manfred Mann #1 UK single “Pretty Flamingo.”

Beatle Geoff Emerick

Sound vs Sound

When it comes to the Beatles’ sound, producer George Martin receives, as he should, lauded credit, but it was the engineer who often had to realize the sound that the Beatles themselves or Martin had in their heads. The Beatles played, of course, but the engineer was mostly responsible for capturing, recording, balancing, mixing, arranging, and putting together the actual songs.

Who set up the mics? The sound engineer. Who had to find the equipment or make the equipment that the Beatles were looking for? The sound engineer. How do you make a guitar not sound like a guitar? The sound engineer.

Keep in mind that while 1966 recording technology may have had advancements over the previous decade, a four-track machine was as advanced as it got.

Beatle Geoff Emerick

And What Were You Doing at 20?

It was early April, 1966. Geoff Emerick recalls, “The studio manager called me to his office and asked whether I’d like to be The Beatles’ engineer. That took me a little bit by surprise! In fact it terrified me. I remember playing a game in my head, eeny meeny miney mo, shall I say yes, shall I say no? The responsibility was enormous but I said yes, thinking that I’d accept the blows as they came.” [from The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, by Mark Lewisohn]

Those of us who grew up with 45s and then moved to albums know that we have a sound memory of the next track as the present track winds down. Of course, bands did not record the album’s track in that order.

Beatle Geoff Emerick

Mark I

April 6, 1966. The session took place in studio three at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, and lasted from 8 pm-1: 15 AM. At this time the song had the working title Mark I. It sounded little like it’s final version.

As they had used one of Ringo’s sayings for A Hard Day’s Night, John would do the same with Mark I. It became, appropriately for Emerick, Tomorrow Never Knows.

After recording the rhythm track, Lennon added his lead vocals, which were fed through a Hammond organ’s Leslie speaker during the second half.  Lennon wanted something different. Emerick found out how.

It meant actually breaking into the circuitry. I remember the surprise on our faces when the voice came out of the speaker. It was just one of sheer amazement. After that they wanted everything shoved through the Leslie: pianos, guitars, drums, vocals, you name it! [ibid]

Beatle Geoff Emerick

Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

By Sgt Peppers, the Beatles were looking to experiment with sound even more and Emerick was up to the task.  Among his many contributions, he created the carnival-like sounds in Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite,  the soundscape of Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds, and the Beatle masterpiece, A Day in the Life [eg, a wind up clock inside the piano].

He received his first Grammy award–Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical–for his work on Peppers. .

Beatle Geoff Emerick

Goodbye Hello

Although his part in the Beatle sound was important, by 1968 their studio bickering pushed him away from them.  He quit working with them on 16 July, while the group were recording ‘Cry Baby Cry’.

I lost interest in the White Album because they were really arguing amongst themselves and swearing at each other. The expletives were really flying. There was one instance just before I left when they were doing ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ for the umpteenth time. Paul was re-recording the vocal again and George Martin made some remark about how he should be lilting onto the half-beat or whatever and Paul, in no refined way, said something to the effect of ‘Well you come down and sing it’. I said to George ‘Look, I’ve had enough. I want to leave. I don’t want to know any more.’ George said ‘Well, leave at the end of the week’ – I think it was a Monday or Tuesday – but I said ‘No, I want to leave now, this very minute, and that was it. [Ibid]
Beatle Geoff Emerick

Not Quite Quitting

But like Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone’s character in The Godfather, Emrick did not stay away completely.

He mixed songs for the Yellow Submarine album, engineered a session for ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’ and returned full-time in July, 1969 while the group were making Abbey Road.

I started working with them again at Paul McCartney’s request, just a week after I had left EMI to run Apple Studios. I went back to Abbey Road as the first freelance engineer that had walked in the building. [Ibid]
Geoff Emerick.
He received his second Grammy Award (same category) for his work on Abbey Road.
Beatle Geoff Emerick

Post Beatles

After The Beatles split up, Emerick worked with artists including Paul McCartney, Judy Garland, Elvis Costello, Art Garfunkel, Cheap Trick, Split Enz and Jeff Beck.

His work on McCartney’s Band On The Run album won him his third Grammy.

In 1984 he moved to the United States and lived in Los Angeles. In 2003 he received his fourth Grammy: Lifetime Technical Achievement [link to acceptance speech]

Beatle Geoff Emerick

Emerick died on 2 October 2018 following a heart attack.

The inspiration for this post came Episode #10: Geoff Emerick-Channeling The Beatles Creativity,  of The Beatles Naked, an amazing and excellent podcast hosted by Richard Buskin and Erik Taros.

Beatle Geoff Emerick