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Who Invented The Weed Brownie? A Tasty History Lesson

We’ve all been there. The weed brownie kicks in and your mind starts to wonder. Between trying to answer the world’s most pressing questions (who decided the alphabet was in alphabetical order?), you may begin to wonder about more existential questions. Namely, who invented pot brownies?

In terms of edibles, weed brownies are iconic. They paved the path for the many medicated delicacies that exist today. But who would have had the brilliant idea of combining weed with brownie? Well, the exact origins are still up for debate but there are two individuals who deserve our praise today. 

Next time you whip up a batch yourself, give thanks to these the delicious legacy these women left behind. 

Alice B. Toklas: Avant-Garde Cannabis Cook

Cannabis Cook book

Of the two women, Alice was born first, so it stands to reason that her influence deserves to be listed first. Alice was born in 1877 in San Francisco and after studying piano at the University of Washington, she moved to Paris. On the day she arrived in Paris, she was introduced to the infamous novelist, playwright, and poet, Gertrude Stein. 

How exactly was the weed brownie born? By day, Alice was a cook. By night, she and Gertrude were Parisian salon hosts. The vibrant and progressive city welcomed people from all around the world to discuss cultural, social, and political matters. Distinguished guests included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso. To get the discussions really flowing, the guests desired an “entertaining refreshment”—without all of the coughing that came with weed smoking.  

And hashish fudge was born. 

The recipe (much healthier than what we make today) was claimed to provide “euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter,” and was published in Toklas’ 1954 cookbook, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. There are rumors that the recipe was given to Alice by author Brion Gysin who was introduced to cannabis during his time in Morocco. 

While this may have been so, it was certainly Toklas who was responsible for popularizing culinary cannabis. 

Mary Jane Rathbun: “Brownie Mary”

weed brownies, pot brownies, cannabis

So, Alice’s contained dates (dates!) instead of chocolate and included ingredients like figs, coriander, and black pepper. The chocolate-packed brownies we know and love today are more associated with Mary Jane (har, har, har) Rathbun, who at 54 became known internationally for selling weed brownies and popularizing the medical marijuana movement. 

Born in 1922, Mary Jane was the product of a conservative Catholic upbringing. It wasn’t until she met activist Dennis Peron in 1974 that she developed her new side hustle—selling “magical brownies” from her San Francisco home. During the rest of her life, she would be arrested three times and reportedly consumed at least one brownie a day to help reduce the pain of her arthritis.

You could consider Mary Jane a ganja grandmother as she did a lot of good work for the local community. She gave her brownies away for free to people suffering from HIV and AIDS and volunteered a lot of her time to lobby for legalized medical marijuana. She produced a cookbook but reportedly never released her recipe, saving it to sell when weed was legal so that she could buy a home for children suffering from AIDS. 

Unfortunately, Mary Jane died in 1999, before most legalization happened, but we can give her posthumous credit for her efforts in medical marijuana and her delicious brownies. 

The legacies of these two women are different, but both certainly important. Alice popularized the idea that cannabis could be consumed in a new way, and that there was a way to experience a buzz without all of the coughing. Mary Jane could be considered a Florence Nightingale-like figure of the medical marijuana movement, and her generosity and efforts changed the lives of thousands of people. So, next time you take a bite of a pot brownie, give a little thought to these progressive forces in the marijuana movement.

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