Oregon legalized the use and possession of recreational marijuana officially on July 1st and I was running around Portland most of that week on assignment for Oregon Leaf. After seeing a tweet mentioning I would be in town, Eugene Reznik at American Photo Magazine reached out about me taking over their @AmericanPhotoMag account while documenting this historic news. They have shared the work of a lot of very talented people (seriously go follow them) so it was a nice way to start my day. I said I was in, he offered a few suggestions and then just set me loose. No pressure. I shared a handful of photos from a couple of the different recreational pot events in Portland where locals got some of their first opportunities to try, buy and smoke marijuana legally. Hopefully we gained a couple of followers? Big thanks to Eugene for the chance to get these images out to a wider audience and to write a bit about covering marijuana right now in the Northwest amid these changing times.
For the March issue of Northwest Leaf I got the opportunity to photograph Martin Nickerson, the owner of Northern Cross Collective, Bellingham, Washington’s longest-running medical marijuana dispensary — open since 2011. I’ve photographed him a bunch over the years for various stories. This time around, it’s because the Washington state Department of Revenue contends that Nickerson owes more than $50,000 in unpaid taxes related to the sale of marijuana. “This is medicine, you can’t tax medicine,” Nickerson told Northwest Leaf in February, during a tour of one of several marijuana grows under his control.
Before working on the inside grow room portraits, I was drawn to the stormy weather and open fields surrounding Martin’s property. The wind was whipping and cold, but the light and color of the sky was so striking. I quickly threw a light on a stand and convinced Wes, the editor, to hold on.
“I know accounting may sound boring,” Harkley said, “But a business can’t operate and serve patients unless it’s making money to pay the operating bills… I realized that I could use my accounting skills to help these businesses succeed. If they succeed here in Washington, then it’s a model for the rest of the country and it’s also another “chink in the armor” of the drug war. I think that’s what has got me really excited, because I can do what I love and at the same time I can actually help some really interesting entrepreneurs. You can’t serve patients or recreational customers efficiently unless you’re following all the guidelines, so give me all your boring stuff and I’ll do it so you can focus on more important things.”
Attorney Adam Ballout of the ABC Law Group in Everett has worked to protect parental rights for medical Cannabis patients in Washington since 2011. “Family law recognizes environment above all,” Ballout said.
“Do not make it easy for them. Keep your medicine out of reach of children, and make sure that you respect it, and that it isn’t affecting parenting. Mentally you should always be prepared to think ‘What if I had to give a walk-through today?’ There shouldn’t be a bong in the living room, or plants growing and smelling in a way that affects children in the house.”
The Year in Pot – Marijuana legalization photos in Washington state | Seattle editorial photographer
Washington’s legalization of marijuana under Initiative 502 has dominated my assignment requests this year.
I am so grateful for wonderful clients like Northwest Leaf, The Daily Telegraph of London, Barcroft Media, The UK Sun, and Seattle Weekly, that have commissioned or licensed marijuana work this year! A whole lot of dramatic changes are still to come, like the new recreational pot stores opening, new big businesses popping up, and the impact of all this on the community and the alike. Washington, alongside Colorado, are going to be the battlegrounds for a radical paradigm shift, and I hope to have an opportunity to document it as much as I did this incredible year.
Thanks to all my friends and colleagues for their continuing support of my work on this story.
Onward and upward in 2014!
I am happy to see my work in a publication that I grew up with for so long!
Seattle Weekly reached out to me about some of my archive images of Jamen Shively, who I covered at a May 30th press conference in the swanky Columbia Tower.
Shively told the gathered media from around the world that he and his partners planned to open up Diego Pellicer, the first global legal marijuana brand, as former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who said he agreed with the need for drug policy changes, stood stoically at his side.
Shively made aggressive, promising statements about the company’s future, as he diplomatically obfuscated from media questions surrounding everything from how the company would grow the pot to distribute it to raise the capital to have this massive infrastructure.
Today, Shively is out as the face of Pellicer, in a very fascinating cover story from Seattle Weekly’s Nina Shapiro — one of my favorites. Thanks for looking!
I got a call last Saturday from the The Sun, a British newspaper, to photograph portraits of Mykayla Comstock and her family out in Pendleton, OR. The client needed the pictures shot Sunday and turned around on a very short deadline by Sunday night, and I had to make the five-hour drive to get there. So I packed up my Escape with my backdrops and portable studio lighting and hit the road. Although I live in Seattle, the paper thought I would be a good choice given my experience in photographing marijuana related stories and subjects.
I was grateful to be able to tell the story of such an inspiring little girl. Twice a day, Mykayla, 8, receives homemade capsules containing a Cannabis oil extract prepared by her mother, Erin Purchase, 25, and her partner, Brandon Krenzler. As a result, the blood cell counts devastated by acute t-cell lymphoblastic leukemia have returned to normal levels — and Mykayla is happily growing stronger and healthier every day. And she isn’t languishing in a hospital. After a year of the Cannabis treatments, Mykayla’s cancer has not returned, and she will be considered in remission in another year. The family received tremendous national scrutiny after their story was first written about in The Oregonian. The debate over whether parents should give their children Cannabis remains fiery, but for this family, nothing else has worked as well. (more…)
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,