Palliative Brownies

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In this stunning excerpt from her new book “Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco,” published at Guernica, Alia Volz remembers her parents’ underground marijuana brownie business in San Francisco, California, at the onset of the AIDS epidemic. Fifteen years before the first effective treatments were available on the market, “marijuana emerged as a palliative remedy for many AIDS-related symptoms, particularly for the nausea and appetite loss that accompanied the deadly wasting syndrome.”

San Francisco struggled under the highest density of HIV/AIDS cases in the western world. The first effective medication wouldn’t reach the market until 1996—fifteen years after Bobbi Campbell hung his warning in the window of Star Pharmacy….My mom joined the underground network of dealer-healers breaking the law to get soothing cannabis into bodies of those who needed it at the dawn of the medical-marijuana movement.

When my parents’ marriage collapsed in the mid-eighties, my mom and I moved back to the city full time. At nine, I was deemed old enough to help my mom bake. I tagged along on deliveries, which had become tours of sickbeds, and saw firsthand the relief our home-baked edibles brought.

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