Some hip graduate student looking for a thesis topic should consider writing the life of Mary Rathbun, the fearless radical best known for the crime of bringing home-baked marijuana brownies to AIDS patients at San Francisco General Hospital. To countless Bay Area residents, coverage of her ludicrous arrests provided the first inkling that the herb had medical utility.  A talk by Donald Abrams, MD, typically begins with a riff about Mary, who helped inspire him to study how marijuana affects people with AIDS and other conditions. But that’s not the item, as Herb Caen used to say.

Thanks to the efficient and determined Lanny Swerdlow, founder of the Brownie Mary Democratic Club, the Democratic Party of California has now granted his/our club a favorable seat at the table.  This is Lanny’s rightfully proud account.

It took a year to happen, but on Sunday, Aug. 16, history was made as the Brownie Mary Democrats of California received by unanimous vote of the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party, their statewide organizational charter. BMDC now joins only four chartered statewide organizations in representing the interests of its members to the Democratic Party.

I would like to thank all of you who took a minute and sent the California Democratic Party an email of support for the BMDC application. Although there was no opposition of any kind to the application, the 66 supporting emails were duly noted and indicated to the Party the widespread support for marijuana law reform and for the Democratic Party to take a leading role in bringing marijuana prohibition to an end.

Not only was there no opposition, but when approval of the application for the Brownie Mary Democrats of California was announced as part of the consent calendar, hundreds of people gave it a spontaneous round of applause which they had not really done for much of anything else that was announced as part of the consent calendar. It seems Democrats like marijuana or at least ending marijuana prohibition.

Even more interesting is during the Executive Session when Party positions on Israel-Palestine issues and death with dignity legislation were being considered, there was heated and passionate debate on all sides. When it came to giving official California Democratic Party state chartered status to a club advocating for marijuana legalization, no one batted an eyelash. Marijuana legalization is now as accepted a Democratic Party value as the right of LGTB citizens to equal protection and participation.

Unfortunately, we were not as successful in getting the resolution passed asking President Obama to grant executive clemency to prisoners in federal jails serving life without parole for non-violent marijuana offenses.

Our resolution was turned in after the deadline for resolution submissions. The way late resolutions are considered is that they go before the Resolution Committee and if any one member of the committee objects to them, they are not considered. There were about 10 late resolutions and except for two that had been introduced by the state party, the vice-chairperson objected to every one of them. It may sound kind of cruel cause these resolutions were all for good causes, but her objections had nothing to do with the content – she just doesn’t want the committee to consider late resolutions.

All of the late resolutions are automatically placed into consideration for the next resolution committee which meets in Feb 2016 where, if they get approved, will be considered for passage at the 2016 CaDEM Eboard meeting which is in July 2016.

It would have been wonderful if it could have been passed, but it will get considered and most likely pass in 2016. That doesn’t do much good for the guys in prison now, but we can still go forward with getting Congressional Representative to write letters to President Obama asking for granting Executive Clemency for federal prisoners serving life sentences without parole for non-violent marijuana offenses.

The chartering of the Brownie Mary Democrats of California is really something of a big thing. The largest state political party in the country recognizes ending marijuana prohibition is a significant issue and is willing to allow the group to use the prestige and political power of the Democratic Party to achieve it. Hopefully this will spread to other state Democratic parties. I can assure you that they will find open and receptive arms in most state Democratic Parties, but someone has to do it.

I think it is quite possible that if someone wants to form a Brownie Mary Republican Club or its equivalent in the Republican Party, there will also be a lot of open and receptive arms. Maybe not as many, but a number that is significant enough that you will feel comfortable.

At the annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) proponents of marijuana legalization had an informational table in the exhibit hall just like BMDC has had at state Democratic Conventions. I have not heard that they were run out on a rail. In fact, I am sure they got a lot of support. So I hope that someone will take the opportunity and run with it in the Republican Party.

The next goal is to have a plank considered for adoption into the Democratic Party’s National Platform at the National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016. The plank would be identical to the plank adopted by the California Democratic Party which calls for the “legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana in a manner similar to tobacco and alcohol.”

I have been informed that introducing a plank that is already in a state’s platform gives it added momentum. There are similar planks in a number of other state Democratic Party platforms, so there is a real chance that support for marijuana legalization can become the policy of the National Democratic Party. This support will be given four months BEFORE the multiple adult-use marijuana and medical marijuana legalization initiatives will be voted on in up to a dozen states.

There are millions of Democrats sitting on the fence on this issue and getting the official support of the Democratic Party will give a significant number of them a reason to get off on our side of the fence.

Of course there will never be a Brownie Mary Republican Club. Mary Rathbun, a waitress, was strongly pro-union, and an outspoken atheist. Of course in US America, where they put Malcolm X on a commemorative stamp, a Brownie Mary Republican Club is not unimaginable. But pro-pot Repugs would be more comfortable naming themselves after William Buckley. Mary Rathbun wasn’t just green, friends, she was dark pink —an anarchist. Will the Brownie Mary Democratic Club only wave only one strand of her rainbow flag?  

Although at O’Shaughnessy’s we rarely respond to “take action” requests (which are usually accompanied by “donate now” pitches), when Lanny sent a paragraph to be forwarded to the California Democratic Party requesting charter status for the Brownie Mary club, we emailed it along.  With this PS:

I’m changing my registration from Green in order to be part of the Brownie Mary Democratic Club. She was a great woman and her admirers can bring new life to the Democratic Party.

Also, I’ve been inspired by The Lord Triangulator’s new calypso song, “Holding Out Hope for Hill.”  All those fab rhymes —in spite of Bill,  thou shalt not kill, Pfizer’s new pill, The Big Chill, her grandpa’s still, a fleeting thrill, Satanic mill, oh, shameless shill, political will… But I digress. PLEASE SUPPORT BMDC CHARTER.

Mary Rathbun and Terence Hallinan. photo by David Smith/O'Shaughnessy's

Mary Rathbun and Terence Hallinan. photo by David Smith/O’Shaughnessy’s