Two San Francisco Visionaries

Auntie Dolores and Brownie Mary Bring Healing Remedies


  Julianna Carella has had two passions since she was very young, health freedom and owning her own business. These have united beautifully as Auntie Dolores, home of delicious, health-oriented medical cannabis foods.

  To Julianna, health freedom means “the right to choose how we heal our bodies and our minds,” according to the company’s website. For those of us who include cannabis in that healing, Auntie Dolores is a great source of edible, healthy medicine. It’s not just the cannabis in the foods that’s healthy. Every ingredient is carefully chosen to contribute to that health profile: superfoods, whole foods, alternative sweeteners, organics. Coconut sugar (with its lower glycemic profile), brown rice flour, fresh as well as dried spices; Auntie Dolores foods meet the needs of different consumers with diet-restrictions including vegan, gluten-free, low glycemic and paleo.

  The name Auntie Dolores is a kind of pun, not a person. San Francisco’s Dolores Park was the inspiration. Dolores means pains in Spanish, so Auntie Dolores means anti-pains, though the company seeks to do more than just defy pain. From the website, “We seek to improve the quality of life for health conscious cannabis consumers by providing broad access to safe alternatives and to educate the public about the therapeutic value of cannabis.”

  Since 2008, Auntie Dolores has been creating organic, gourmet, THC-infused edibles. Julianna said that at that time there were fewer than a dozen medibles makers, and few of those made savory foods. At Auntie Dolores, you’ll find gourmet sweets such as Cocoa Sparkle Cookies and various Bites of Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Brownies, and Toffee Brownies. The emphasis at Auntie Dolores is on savory selections. You’ll find savory and (a little) sweet goodies – Glazed Pecans (super in salads) and Caramel Corn, as well as a nice assortment of savory edibles like Cheese Biscuits, Chili Lime Peanuts and their number one seller, Savory Pretzels.

  The pretzels, chocolate brownies, and assorted truffles are also available in CBD-infused instead of THC-infused blends. They use whole plant CBD extracts from Colorado-grown hemp and are innovating with a process that removes all but .03 percent of the THC from a local Harlequin/ACDC cross.

  According to Julianna, due to changes in federal law under President Obama, their CBD products can be mailed across state lines because the THC content is so low. You can become a member of Auntie Dolores and order their CBD products online without a prescription.

  Julianna spoke of her cannabis businesses as being continual “experiments, to see how far we can go” in these changing legal climates. She advises anyone wanting to run a cannabis business to have a “Plan A, B, C, and D!” Things keep changing rapidly. And don’t forget all those regulation gaps and disagreements between political entities.

  She said, “People who want more guidance from authorities on running their businesses shouldn’t start cannabis businesses.” It’s not just about changes in cannabis law. There’s the crazy world of labeling too. San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley have different rules about labeling. Auntie Dolores actually got in trouble with SF authorities for putting full disclosure labels on their products. It seems that it claimed too much legitimacy for their products as foods. To Juliana though, health freedom is the point. People deserve to know everything. That means potency, contaminants, AND nutritional labeling. You’ll find links to nutrition facts and to lab results in the description for each Auntie Dolores goodie. Impressive!   

  The struggle over accurate labeling is a story in itself. As this writer reported in the September 2015 issue of the Emerald Magazine, the ingredients in medical cannabis foods remain unregulated. All eyes have been on that scary cannabis, not the eggs, dairy products or other ingredients otherwise highly regulated by the state. An odd situation that still exists. It’s important to emphasize that, like so many other cannabis entrepreneurs we’ve profiled, Julianna has run her business with greater attention to health, disclosure to consumers and integrity than she has been required to, filling the huge regulatory gaps out of good-hearted honesty.

  In 2013, Julianna was called on by her customers to fill another health gap. She received questions from customers about giving her wonderfully effective medical treats to their pets. So, she looked into it. She found that THC is very bad for dogs. Seems they’re more complex, sense-oriented brains cannot cope with the effects. Though information is lacking for other species, it would be prudent to assume a similar problem in other animals. No veterinary research has been done yet, leaving vets with no sound evidence to pass on to clients.

  However CBD is another matter. Science now claims that some animals have endocannabinoid systems, brain and other organ receptor sites that accept cannabis molecules and can benefit from CBD. Of known animal groups, only insects lack endocannabinoid systems. In 2013, Julianna started another branch of her business, Treatibles CBD infused chews, under the banner, “bring harmony to your household.” At Treatibles.com you’ll find two sizes of chews good for dogs and cats made with the same attention to quality as their people foods, lots of information in the FAQ section and inspiring blog entries.

  Julianna serves on the California Cannabis Industry Association’s board as they help to shape laws and regulations. She is soon to step down to focus more fully on building Auntie Dolores into a national and international brand. She mentioned it’s been quite a challenge to balance that political role with running her business. All of us benefit from the deep sense of civic responsibility of people like Julianna and of the next person profiled here.

  Brownie Mary, Mary Jane Rathbun, was the original medical cannabis pioneer. Born in Chicago, Mary Jane worked most of her life as a waitress. Strongly progressive in her views, she took part in labor organizing for miners in Wisconsin and for women’s abortion advocacy in Minneapolis, Minnesota before moving to San Francisco during World War II. In that city, she began to supplement her income by selling cannabis brownies, hence her nickname, Brownie Mary.

  Her only child, Peggy, was killed at 19 by a drunk driver. In that same year, 1974, she met Dennis Peron and began her career as “the Florence Nightingale of the medical marijuana movement,” as SF District Attorney Terence Hallinan later called her.

  That brilliant, courageous career really got underway thanks to the legal system. Busted for the first time in 1981, Brownie Mary was sentenced to probation and 500 hours of community service. She began working for the Shanti Project, an HIV/AIDS support group where she noticed the positive effects of cannabis in countering the physical wasting from loss of appetite. Mary got busy in the kitchen, this time to benefit others. Locals began donating cooking grade cannabis to her efforts.

  In 1982, the same police officer arrested her again, but the charges were dropped. Seems it was a public relations nightmare to prosecute such a grandmotherly figure. And Mary, who was known to swear like a sailor, played that sweet, Granny role to the hilt in public!

  In 1984, Mary began volunteering in the AIDS ward of San Francisco General Hospital. About that same time, Dennis Peron was talking to ACT-UP, the HIV/AIDS activist group, about the benefits of cannabis. The group was skeptical until they began hearing stories of the great relief Brownie Mary’s clients experienced. Information spread by word-of-mouth and came to the attention of city politicos. In 1991, San Francisco passed the nation’s first medical cannabis legislation, with 79 percent of the voters in favor, recommending cannabis to the state and to the California Medical Association, asking that they make cannabis available for patients and to protect doctors who prescribe it.

  The following year was particularly busy for Brownie Mary. She endured her third arrest (at age 70) in Sonoma County. Her acquittal successfully rested on the medical necessity defense; that she was compassionately breaking the law to relieve the suffering of others, not for her own profit. She then testified before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which subsequently passed a resolution declaring prosecution of marijuana possession the lowest priority for law enforcement. They also named August 25 as “Brownie Mary Day” in the city. Mary went on that year to protest federal cannabis prohibition in Washington, D.C. and helped Dennis Peron found the first medical cannabis dispensary in the U.S., the San Francisco Buyers Club.

  In 1996, Mary campaigned actively for the passage of Prop. 215, The Compassionate Use Act. In 1997, she was a Grand Marshall, along with Dennis Peron, of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade.

  In 1999, Mary died and on April 17, several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil in her honor. That’s where DA Hallinan made his historic remark about her being like Florence Nightingale, the nurse-hero of the Crimean War.

  Now, you can join one of a handful of Brownie Mary Democratic Clubs springing up in California. The idea is to focus on continuing to open political discussion and to legitimize cannabis as a social good. The clubs are modeled on earlier gay rights political clubs that were effective in shifting public discourse.

   You can join a Brownie Mary Democratic Club in Riverside, Palm Springs, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Bernardino and the East Bay. At the website BrownieMaryClub.NationBuilder.com, you’ll find information on starting your own cannabis political club and a downloadable brochure. Now that’s a fine legacy for the very politically active Brownie Mary.

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