I got into Denver at 10:30am Friday after leaving my house at well before 5 a.m. Seattle time to cover 4/20 weekend in the Mile-High City for Northwest Leaf. One crazy event I never thought I would get to shoot would be a smoker’s VIP party featuring none other than Snoop Lion. Making the event even more historic, the fact that Amendment 64 passed in Colorado, legalizing recreational use of marijuana. Washington state and Colorado are the first states to do so.
After a bit of back and forth to get the credentials squared away, I was lead into the beautiful Fillmore Auditorium. Soon, hundreds of medical Cannabis patients and recreational enthusiasts from across the country streamed in, having paid hundreds for access to the concert and film screening. They settled in and took a seat to watch Snoop’s new documentary, Reincarnated. The film explores Jamaica, rasta and Snoop’s work to make an authentic reggae album, and was pretty entertaining, from the glimpses I caught during the evening. Many of the attendees were smoking pot, passing joints and blunts from row to row. Sharing is caring.
As the clock struck midnight and 4/19 became 4/20 (the much-vaunted marijuana smoker’s holiday), a new year’s eve worthynumber of balloons fell from the ceiling and the party raged on. Today’s 50k+ strong celebrations in the shadow of the Colorado state Capitol should be even more interesting to cover.
Just after midnight, Washington legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use for those over 21 under Initiative 502, which took effect Thursday, Dec. 6. 2012. A public celebration hailed as Legalization Day in Washington State attracted about a hundred people to toke up at Seattle Center’s International Fountain Thursday evening, after a similar event at 12:01 a.m. near the Space Needle. Public smoking is still against the law, and marijuana remains counter to federal law. Colorado passed a similar measure.
All photos available for licensing at http://seattlephotographer.photoshelter.com/gallery/Washington-legalizes-marijuana-photos/G0000..eNFpzfHOc/C0000fzMTw_NAP.c
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In a sign of what has increasingly become a new niche for my editorial photography in Seattle, I got an email from The Daily Telegraph of London asking if I would like to photograph a story on medical marijuana.
For two days, I worked with the Telegraph’s U.S. Editor Peter Foster, based out of D.C., to tell the stories of a handful of people to whom this issue is so important. In Washington state, medical marijuana has been legal since 1998 — but remains illegal under federal controlled substance laws.
Peter wrote a nicely nuanced piece on the likelihood of cannabis legalization occurring across the U.S. Please check it out: Is the Prohibition of ‘Pot’ coming to an end in the US?
I did not have long to work on the story, but was fortunate enough to meet and photograph the owners of medical cannabis access points, people heading a legalization initiative in the state, and even patients and vendors at a daily cannabis farmers market in Seattle, and an older patient north of there, whose identity remains anonymous due to the sensitivity of his professional life.
That is the reality of medical marijuana in this state. It is used for a variety of reasons by people from every walk of life, yet remains castigated by the federal government and law enforcement — it’s a challenging line to tow, but these patients live it every day.
My experience and previous access to those in the medical marijuana community was key to illustrating the piece, as was Peter’s guidance. He informed me of the level of knowledge surrounding medical marijuana in Britain, and how that differed dramatically from those living in the States, for whom this has been a newsworthy topic for the last few years.
One of the most interesting parts of the assignment was exploring the cannabis farmers market. The daily market boasts several dozen regular vendors, and patients are free to use their cannabis in a separate part of the facility. The entrance to the area notes: 15-minute limit. I joined them inside, and was drawn to how the community aspect of medical marijuana has increased over time. Luckily, once the patients got over the strangeness of a Seattle photographer shooting for a British paper, they opened up.It was a jam-packed schedule but I feel fortunate to be able to work with wonderful clients like The Daily Telegraph to tell stories like these.
Thanks for reading,