Brownie Mary Democratic Club rises in East Bay

The East Bay has its first marijuana-oriented Democratic club.

As Brownie Mary Democratic Club, created to advocate for the rights of California marijuana. has been chartered by the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee with members including Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward; county Democratic chairwoman Robin Torello; and county committeewoman Ginny DeMartini. It’ll be chaired by committeewoman Denise Martellaci and vice-chaired by committeeman Rick Trullinger.

“The Brownie Mary Club will help bridge the cannabis community throughout Alameda County and educate our elected and future elected with cannabis reform issues,” Martellacci said in a news release. “Our Brownie Mary members are representatives from a wide spectrum and will demonstrate to the Democratic community our seriousness and abilities to meet our 2016 goal of full marijuana legalization for adults in the state of California.”

Members of the club are already walking precincts for cannabis-friendly candidates, and plan to help with phone banking and fundraisers. But its first order of business was to make endorsements – no surprises in the state, congressional and legislative races – including Rebecca Kaplan for Oakland mayor and taking a “no” position on Proposition 46 and a “yes” on Proposition 47.

The new club also is working on a pending Alameda County ordinance that would limit use of e-cigarettes, by advocating for patients who vaporize their medical marijuana.

It’s named for “Brownie Mary” Rathbun, a renowned activist who baked brownies for AIDS patients in San Francisco in the run-up to California voters’ approval for legal medical marijuana in 1996.

The Alameda County club is the sixth such group chartered in the state, after Riverside, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Francisco. The previous clubs were a visible presence at the March 2014 state Democratic convention in Los Angeles, and succeeded in getting the party to add a platform plank supporting “the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol.

Also represented in the club are cannabis reform groups California NORML, the Drug Policy Alliance and the California Cannabis Industry Association, along with cannabis advocates Dan Grace of Dark Heart Nursery, Sean Luce of Berkeley Patients Group, attorney James Anthony, and Hank Levy, CPA. Union representative Debra Pearson, with SEIU Local 1021’s Alameda County Committee on Political Education, and campaign strategist Mark Goodwin are also on board.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Let’s complement this group
    With a Tobacco & Alcohol Users club. Aim: to preserve the right of responsible use of adult recreational substances

  • JohnW

    Apparently that “right of responsible use” comes with a pretty high price tag in the case of tobacco — like $540 million cumulative in Contra Costa County — or $17.46 per pack of cigs.


  • Marga

    I’m sure there was such a group during prohibition

  • Marga

    My husband, who is running for City Council here in San Leandro, was also endorsed by the Brownie Marie club.

    And sure, we can giggle about it, but I think legalization is one of the most important human rights issues of our time – and this at a time when our government is so war hungry and internally aggressive, that we have plenty of human rights issues to chose from.

    The criminalization of marijuana not only has destroyed families and full communities with incredibly harsh penalties, but it continues to encourage a violent black market that has lead to brutal drug war south of the border and the killing of thousands.

    And all for what? To not-really-stop people from smoking a drug that’s less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes?

  • VIPelle

    Yes, unlike marijuana, tobacco kills people.

  • Elwood

    “one of the most important human rights issues of our time”

    The mind boggles.

  • Elwood

    Long term effects of smoking mj are poorly understood. There are insufficient studies, although some studies indicate that marijuana may be more damaging than tobacco.

  • Marga


    When you have police and government authorities so embroiled with drug trafficking organizations that not only do they pay a blind eye to murders and disappearances, but that cause them to be committed, I don’t know what else you can call this other than a human rights crisis.

  • JohnW

    Very bad for kids whose brains are still developing.

  • Elwood
  • A.) This has nothing whatsoever to do with the blog post, and you know the rules here.

    B.) The Arizona incident appears to be innocuous (http://www.dailydot.com/politics/racist-voter-fraud-video-viral/); there are lots of instances of voting-machine screw-ups favoring both sides of the aisle, but that doesn’t mean it’s intentional fraud; and the North Carolina incident, it seems to me, means the system is working – these people were discovered and will be asked to prove their citizenship in order to vote.

  • JohnW

    Sorry Elwood, but there are a few problems with story as told by the link you provided. None of this shows that “Yes Virginia, there is election fraud.”

    First, none of the incidents mentioned involved in-person voter fraud, the virtually non-existent type of voting fraud that Voter ID laws are designed to prevent, or so the authors of the laws say.

    Second, it turns out the the “ballot box stuffing” in Maricopa county was perfectly legal, according to the head of the county elections department (who is a Republican). Arizona law allows people casting early ballots to turn their sealed and signed early ballot envelopes over to another person to turn in. As in Contra Costa County, the signatures are checked, and ballots are tossed if the signatures don’t match. Last year, somebody proposed a bill in the Republican legislature to make it so that this questionable practice would no longer be allowed, but they (the Republican legislature) failed to pass the bill. If you want a link on this, I can provide.

    In the Cook County case, the voter noticed that when he voted for Republican candidates on the touch screen machine, the display showed that he voted for Democrats instead. He was subsequently able to use the machine to correctly record his votes by touching something in the upper right corner. The machine was taken out of service. This should give us all pause about reliability of computerized voting machines or potential hacking and tampering, but the historical reputation of Cook County elections notwithstanding, this seems to have been a genuine machine malfunction, not fraud. If it had been intentional, somebody would have rigged the machine to vote Democratic without displaying it to the voter on the screen.

    The North Carolina case appears to be a case of the DMV improperly registering ineligible immigrants. But the state board of elections is cross-checking all that. There is no evidence that any of the improperly registered individuals voted, attempted to vote or ever intended to vote.

  • VIPelle

    No one’s suggesting kids use it. BTW, here’s the latest study:
    Study: Cannabis Use Not Associated With Deficits In Intelligence Quotient http://blog.norml.org/2014/10/22/study-cannabis-use-not-associated-with-deficits-in-intelligence-quotient/

  • VIPelle

    There are a number of longitudinal studies that show no connection between marijuana and lung cancer. Some components have anti-tumor properties. http://www.alternet.org/drugs/scientists-israel-will-study-anti-tumor-effects-cannabis-cancer-patients