“The Faces of Hashish” Acknowledges the Younger Heroes of Medical Marijuana


Because the cannabis trade drifts additional away from its roots, it is vital to recollect the individuals who bought us right here. “The Faces of Hashish” photograph exhibition does precisely that.

Photographs Courtesy of Nichole Montanez

The highway to legalization has been a tretcherous journey. It’s featured personalities corresponding to Dennis Peron, Brownie Mary, and Ed Rosenthal — individuals who devoted their lives advocating for change by placing their reputations and liberty in danger. These outspoken, groundbreaking pioneers are well-known amongst cannabis group. However there’s one other group of heroes within the medical cannabis motion who haven’t acquired the eye they deserve, regardless of having extra to lose than their freedom.

That’s starting to vary, nonetheless, because of a touring pictures exhibition that is coming to San Diego in early August. The Faces of Hashish, created by Colorado artist and journalist Nichole Montanez, options portraits of younger medical marijuana sufferers and documentary pictures that chronicles their successes and struggles with important diseases.

Adversity Evokes Creativity

Montanez started the photograph sequence after her now 13-year-old niece, Hailey — affectionately referred to as “Teapot” — started having seizures as an toddler. The younger lady was finally recognized with Dravet syndrome, a uncommon genetic dysfunction that causes extreme epilepsy in kids. Montanez was quickly photographing the household’s ordeal, and after being laid off from a newspaper job in 2012, she started serving to her sister take care of Teapot full-time. 

Again then, Montanez knew that Colorado voted to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis, however had restricted data of the topic. Like many others, she suspected that medical marijuana use was actually only a ploy by folks with ulterior motives to get excessive.

“I wasn’t actually paying consideration,” she stated in a telephone interview with MERRY JANE.


However that modified when Montanez realized about Charlotte Figi, one other younger Colorado lady with Dravet syndrome. On the time, Charlotte was considered one of Colorado’s youngest medical marijuana sufferers and was displaying nice progress with a cannabis oil formulation from a pressure low in THC however excessive in CBD. The pressure would later be named Charlotte’s Internet in honor of the younger pioneering affected person.

Montanez organized to fulfill with Charlotte and her mom Paige at their home. When Montanez bought there, Charlotte was fortunately consuming — a stark distinction to Teapot again at house, who might now not eat and was receiving sustenance by way of a feeding tube.

“To see Charlotte consuming meals was my second of ‘Oh my God, I need this. We wish this for her,’” Montanez stated. “From that time on I used to be paying consideration.”

Montanez started assembly different households with kids who used cannabis medicinally, together with a number of who moved to Colorado from throughout the nation to have entry to drugs. However the course of to get cannabis for Montanez’s niece wasn’t simple, although she lived in a state with authorized medical cannabis. The uncertainty and stigma related to medical marijuana was palpable, notably for pediatric sufferers, and the actual fact most physicians have been reluctant to jot down suggestions for teenagers. 


Households Struggle for Change

Mother and father and members of the family quickly realized they needed to change into activists to advance the medical marijuana motion, which Montanez stated had stalled after preliminary progress in Colorado and the West Coast. That’s when she realized her pictures could possibly be used to vary the minds of lawmakers and the general public.

“All of us have to search out our position on this as a result of now we have to make this occur,” she stated. “Households are having to depart their house states and are available [to Colorado] to have entry to a plant that would probably save a toddler’s life. That’s not proper.”

Her challenge began with a purpose to {photograph} portraits of the 50 Colorado children who used medical marijuana on the time and create a neighborhood exhibition.


“These are the brand new faces of cannabis,” Montanez stated, referring to the present’s theme. “These children are proof that every thing you thought you knew about cannabis and what it does could be flawed. So I wished to problem folks as a result of I as soon as thought the identical factor: that marijuana was for getting excessive. However I used to be flawed and I do know that now.”

However extra households stored coming to Colorado as medical marijuana refugees. So, Montanez had extra topics to {photograph}. As phrase of her challenge unfold, she began touring to different states to take portraits and doc the cannabis journeys of different younger sufferers.

“I had near 300 portraits of children and a whole physique of documentary pictures,” Montanez stated, “and never solely from Colorado, however from throughout the nation.” 


Hashish Offers a Mom Hope

Allison Ray Benavides, a licensed scientific social employee from San Diego, realized of Montanez’s challenge by way of a community of oldsters who deal with their kids’s important illnesses with cannabis. Her son Robby was recognized with a seizure dysfunction referred to as Doose syndrome, simply because the potential for CBD to deal with such circumstances was changing into identified. When it grew to become obvious that the usual pharmaceutical remedy wasn’t working for her son, she was grateful to have another choice.

Benavides reached out to contacts in Colorado by way of social media to get a drugs made with Charlotte’s Internet. However cannabis’ Schedule I standing made sending oils throughout state strains unlawful and, thus, a threat for everybody concerned. That didn’t matter, although. Ultimately, sufficient Charlotte’s Internet tincture made it to California for 20 children to start remedy, together with Robby, who was 3-years-old on the time.

Though it didn’t work in a single day and the dosage of CBD and his different drugs required an adjustment interval, Robby has mainly been seizure-free for 5 years. He was finally capable of get rid of all however one of many prescription drugs — and associated unwanted effects — from his remedy routine.

“For a kid with Doose syndrome to be on one pharmaceutical and CBD, and to have had a five-year stretch with no seizures is fairly phenomenal,” she stated. “So we’re very, very blessed. My son has been thriving. He can learn now and preserve the mainstream in school.”


When Benavides came upon that Montanez can be in Los Angeles to take portraits of younger sufferers in 2014, she drove Robby from San Diego for the photoshoot. She’s pleased with the exhibition and believes that it’s a becoming tribute to the sufferers and households that reignited the medical marijuana motion.

“These of us who have been there initially, these of us whose kids suffered, and those that have children who’ve died in order that we could be right here in the present day, we will really feel enthusiastic about ensuring that they continue to be acknowledged for his or her contribution,” she stated.

That contribution legitimized the potential of cannabinoid therapies and helped spur a revolution within the remedy of seizure issues and different severe illnesses by way of assistance from cannabis.

“They did not simply change the medical marijuana motion,” Benavides stated. “They actually modified drugs ceaselessly.”


Scope of the Exhibition Grows

After 5 years, the challenge had grown to comprise greater than 10,000 photographs. With such a big physique of labor to drag from, Montanez’s exhibition advanced from the unique portraiture to incorporate an set up piece and a few of the documentary pictures. 

Components of the present have been exhibited 5 occasions throughout Colorado, Dallas, and California, with future dates within the works for showings in Massachusetts and extra galleries in Colorado. With so many topics within the portfolio, Montanez is normally capable of curate every exhibit to incorporate kids from the native space and invite them to the opening reception.

“The actually neat half about once I did the primary [exhibit] in Colorado, was that when folks got here to the present, they weren’t simply taking a look at pictures of children, they have been additionally seeing these children on the gallery,” stated Montanez. “So, they have been capable of work together with [the children] and see them in a manner that they’ve actually by no means thought of [youth] earlier than.”


Montanez stated that whereas the story of those younger medical marijuana sufferers (popularized by Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN and others) was instrumental in advancing medical cannabis laws in lots of states, she’s afraid they’ll be forgotten. Reform was made doable by the extreme diseases of youngsters, which, in flip, has result in a nationwide CBD craze that’s extra about turning a revenue than celebrating the therapeutic properties of the plant — or the individuals who made the trade doable. 

“With out these children, we most likely would not have had as a lot laws on this in need of time,” she explains. “And now there’s a complete trade constructed round it and I am not comfy with them simply placing the youngsters apart and saying, ‘Okay. Proper. We bought our CBD and we’re making our jelly beans and our cocktails and you have finished your job.’ No, that trivializes every thing. So I simply wish to proceed to inform the story for so long as I am ready to do this.”

Benavides is grateful for that dedication.


The Faces of Hashish involves the La Bodega Gallery in San Diego for one evening solely on Saturday, August third, from 5PM to 10PM. Greater than 90 photographs from the sequence, together with portraits, documentary pictures, and the set up piece might be on show. Particular visitors will embrace Nichole Montanez, an set up artist, Allison Ray Benavides, and her son Robby, who’s now 9-years-old. 

“Our kids reside on the perimeter and we’re so marginalized,” Benavides stated. “And I believe any alternative to place them on the heart is therapeutic and essential. Our kids deserve this present, contemplating the contribution that they’ve made to trendy drugs.”

The gallery is positioned at 2196 Logan Avenue, San Diego, California, 92113. The opening reception commences at 5PM. For extra data go to La Bodega Gallery on-line or “The Faces of Hashish” web site.


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