This May, the Marijuana Policy Project is celebrating those mothers who are also advocates and pioneers in the cannabis space. We admire all the work that mothers do — taking care of their children and fighting for what they believe in. The women recognized here have, for one reason or another, decided to put everything on the line in their push for cannabis legalization. Their occupations range from legislators and journalists to waitresses and dispensary owners. The mothers we honor this month have found that the fight for cannabis legalization is very personal to them and to their children.
Born Mary Jane Rathburn in Chicago in 1922, Brownie Mary was a fighter for all rights. Her advocacy included the fight for abortion rights as well as for the rights of miners to form unions. After relocating to San Francisco, she married and had one daughter. Divorced by the 1960s, it would be 10 years later that she would first share a joint with major medical cannabis supporter Dennis Peron. That led her to the beginning of her crusade for the reform of cannabis laws.
While living in San Francisco, Mary held a waitressing job for 25 years as she simultaneously ran a side hustle of selling cannabis-infused brownies. After she was busted twice by law enforcement within a two-year period, she took her brownie business underground in December 1982. An unsympathetic judge informed Mary if she were caught a third time, she would land in jail.
While performing community service to avoid jail time, Mary was introduced to the Shanti Project, a nonprofit that assisted AIDS patients. She later began volunteering in the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital, during which she would bake nearly 600 of her brownies a day for AIDS patients. This is the same year that her only daughter was killed in a tragic car crash.
After being arrested in 1992, Mary testified before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors about the medical benefits of cannabis. Her testimony led to a Board resolution that made medical cannabis possession the “lowest law enforcement priority” in arrests and prosecution. Soon after, Proposition 215 passed, exempting patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate cannabis recommended by a physician for medical treatment from criminal prosecution. It is thanks in part to Brownie Mary that patients can access medical cannabis in 37 states today.
A journalist and mom who indulges in cannabis, Shonitira Anthony is the face behind the “Blunt Blowin’ Mama” community. She began Blunt Blowin’ Mama to create a space for women and mothers who have cannabis in common to connect and be seen.
The overarching goal of her cannabis lifestyle platform is to normalize the conversation around cannabis. Although targeted to Black women, the Blunt Blowin’ Mama community is for anyone who enjoys cannabis, leads a proactive lifestyle, and is looking to connect with others in the same space.
Former Executive Director of Compassionate South Carolina, Judy Ghanem has been fighting for the legalization of medical cannabis for years. Within the last four years, Ghanem has spent many hours at the South Carolina State House meeting with legislators in an effort to urge them to approve medical cannabis legislation in her state.
Judy’s advocacy began because she has a severely autistic daughter whose prescription medications resulted in her suffering from terrible side effects. After seeking medical advice from several doctors, an acquaintance suggested that she try hemp and CBD oils for her daughter. The synthetic THC did not work, but the cannabis oils did. Judy learned that so many other illnesses and disabilities can be treated with medical cannabis, and she continues her fight for a compassionate medical cannabis program in South Carolina.
Cannabis advocate and Instagram influencer dubbed “The Mommy Jane,” Jessica Gonzalez credits cannabis for saving her life and her relationships. She contends that it was cannabis that made her a healthier and happier version of herself... so much so that she has made it her mission to normalize the use of cannabis and plant medicines and help eliminate the stigma associated with being a “CannaMom.”
Marijuana Policy Project President & CEO Toi Hutchinson is a former Illinois state senator who co-authored the state’s 2019 Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA), the most equity-centric law in the nation to legalize cannabis for adult use. The CRTA promotes equity and invests in the communities that suffered most through the war on drugs, serving as a model of cannabis legalization for other states to follow.
Toi's advocacy for this legislation earned her and three other Illinois legislators the title of “Marijuana Moms.” In 2019, Toi was appointed by Governor JB Pritzker as his Senior Advisor for Cannabis Control. In January 2022, Toi joined MPP as the organization’s President & CEO. Since her arrival, Toi has advocated for the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis nationwide. This Marijuana Mom is featured on the cover of Sweet Jane Magazine's May issue.
Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, individuals who mother, as well as the concepts of motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers. It was not long ago that a mother acknowledging access to cannabis helped them to be better parent may have landed them in jail and/or their kids in the system. Our jails are filled with parents, mostly Black and brown, who consumed cannabis for a variety of reasons.
This Mother’s Day, let’s remember those moms, let’s continue the fight for their cause and release, and let’s celebrate the way cannabis helps everyone, including mothers, and makes the world a better place.