In 1996, as AIDS ravaged San Francisco’s gay community, Metropolitan Community Church pastor Jim Mitulski risked imprisonment, dispensing marijuana to alleviate his sick congregants’ pain before it was legal. He did this in church, right after services.

“The risk was real, the spiritual intensity was real, and the tangible relief for the people who used it was real,” Mitulski recalls. 

It’s LGBTQ History Month, and Out in the Bay this week presents a Stereotypes podcast episode about Mitulski and the MCC’s compassionate cannabis program. In “Marijuana Minister,” produced and hosted by Christopher Beale, Mitulski tells most of the story himself — in his own words and voice.

“We had rules: No money could be exchanged. The pot had to be donated. People had to provide a note.” San Francisco officials promised not to prosecute and said they would try to protect Mitulski and the MCC from federal and state prosecution, but they couldn’t guarantee it.

Pot eased pain and diminished nausea caused by early HIV drugs, reviving appetites of people who were wasting away. The church distributions began after California’s attorney general shut down many medical marijuana clubs, leaving folks few options.

Phyllis Nelson, a church member who helped Mitulski, had lost both her son and his husband to AIDS. “She said, ‘If the attorney general had to spend a whole morning trying to get his son to eat a half a bowl of cereal, like I did, he would understand what we’re doing right now.’”

So much more in this inspiring Stereotypes episode. Take a listen. Big thanks to Stereotypes producer and host Christopher Beale for providing this feature to Out in the Bay. Learn more and hear past episodes at Stereotypes‘ website; find Beale on Twitter @realchrisjbeale.

Please help us keep bringing queer air to your ears. Out in the Bay is an independent, listener-supported non-profit production. Your gift will help keep LGBTQ voices and stories coming to you, and to others who might not be able to give. (Donate tabs on our website will take you to a Media Alliance interface. Media Alliance is our non-proft 501(c)3 fiscal agent. Your gift will be earmarked for Out in the Bay.)

Photo of Reverend Jim Mitulski by Christopher Beale.

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