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Mary Elaine Gennoy, 53; Advocate for Medical Marijuana

September 21, 2004|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Mary Elaine Gennoy, 53, who used the birth defects that dwarfed her body to become a passionate medical marijuana activist, died Sept. 5 in San Francisco of complications from surgery to treat cancer of the larynx.

Because of radiation treatment given her mother during pregnancy, Gennoy stood only 4 feet 6 inches and weighed less than 70 pounds. She was born with hearing and intestinal problems, missing fingers and toes, useless thumbs and without forearm bones. The problems required frequent surgeries and caused chronic discomfort, which she discovered as a teenager could be relieved by marijuana.

During the 1996 campaign to pass Proposition 215, legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, Gennoy gathered signatures for the measure and later served as a spokeswoman for the cause.

Gennoy said she had smoked three marijuana cigarettes a day for much of her life. She said the drug made her constant pain bearable, and she would often challenge audiences by saying: "Walk in my body for one day and tell me medical marijuana isn't necessary."

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