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

Because the hashish trade drifts additional away from its roots, it’s vital to recollect the individuals who bought us right here. And “The Faces of Hashish” picture exhibition does precisely that.

Pictures Courtesy of Nichole Montanez

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

However that’s starting to vary because of a touring images exhibition that’s 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 images that chronicles their successes and struggles with essential diseases.


Adversity Conjures up Creativity

Montanez started the picture collection after her now 13-year-old niece Hailey — affectionately often known as “Teapot” — started having seizures as an toddler. The younger woman 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 look after Teapot full-time. 

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

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


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

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

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

Montanez started assembly different households with kids who used hashish medicinally, together with a couple of who moved to Colorado from throughout the nation to have entry to medication. However the course of to get hashish for Montanez’s niece wasn’t straightforward, despite the fact that she lived in a state with authorized medical hashish. The uncertainty and stigma related to medical marijuana was palpable, notably for pediatric sufferers, and the actual fact most physicians have been reluctant to write down suggestions for youths. 


Households Combat for Change

Mother and father and relations quickly realized that they must develop into activists to proceed 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 images might be used to vary the minds of lawmakers and the general public.

“All of us have to seek out our function on this as a result of now we have to make this occur,” she stated. “Households are having to depart their residence states and are available [to Colorado] to have entry to a plant that might doubtlessly save a baby’s life. That’s not proper.”

Her venture began with a objective to portraits of the 50 Colorado youngsters who used medical marijuana on the time and create an area exhibition.


“These are the brand new faces of hashish,” Montanez stated, referring to the present’s theme. “These youngsters are proof that all the pieces you thought you knew about hashish and what it does may be mistaken. So I wished to problem individuals as a result of I as soon as thought the identical factor: that marijuana was for getting excessive. However I used to be mistaken and I do know that now.”

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

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


Hashish Provides a Mom Hope

Allison Ray Benavides, a licensed scientific social employee from San Diego, realized of Montanez’s venture by means of a community of fogeys who deal with their kids’s essential illnesses with hashish. Her son Robby was recognized with a seizure dysfunction often known as Doose syndrome, simply because the potential for CBD to deal with such situations was turning into identified. When it grew to become obvious that the usual pharmaceutical remedy wasn’t working for her son, she was grateful to have an alternative choice.

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

Though it didn’t work in a single day and the dosage of CBD and his different medicines required an adjustment interval, Robby has mainly been seizure-free for 5 years. He was finally capable of remove all however one of many prescription medicines — and associated negative 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 maintain the mainstream at college.”


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 originally, these of us whose kids suffered, and those that have youngsters who’ve died in order that we will be right here at this time, we are able to 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 critical illnesses by means of the help of hashish.

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


Scope of the Exhibition Grows

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

Parts 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 often capable of curate every exhibit to incorporate kids from the native space and invite them to the opening reception.

“The actually neat half about after I did the primary [exhibit] in Colorado, was that when individuals got here to the present, they weren’t simply taking a look at images of youngsters, they have been additionally seeing these youngsters on the gallery,” stated Montanez. “So, they have been capable of work together with [the children] and see them in a approach 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 hashish laws in lots of states, she’s afraid they’ll be forgotten. Reform was made potential by the extreme diseases of kids, 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 potential. 

“With out these youngsters, 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 children apart and saying, ‘Okay. Proper. We bought our CBD and we’re making our jelly beans and our cocktails and you have achieved your job.’ No, that trivializes all the pieces. 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 night time solely on Saturday, August third, from 5PM to 10PM. Greater than 90 photographs from the collection, together with portraits, documentary images, and the set up piece will probably 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 stay on the perimeter and we’re so marginalized,” Benavides stated. “And I feel any alternative to place them on the middle is therapeutic and essential. Our kids deserve this present, contemplating the contribution that they’ve made to trendy medication.”

The gallery is situated 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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