“The Faces of Cannabis” Recognizes the Young Heroes of Healthcare Marijuana


As the cannabis market drifts additional away from its roots, it really is crucial to try to remember the folks who got us right here. “The Faces of Cannabis” photo exhibition does specifically that.

Photographs Courtesy of Nichole Montanez

The road to legalization has been a tretcherous journey. It is featured personalities such as Dennis Peron, Brownie Mary, and Ed Rosenthal — folks who devoted their lives advocating for alter by placing their reputations and liberty at threat. These outspoken, groundbreaking pioneers are nicely identified amongst cannabis neighborhood. But there’s a different group of heroes in the healthcare cannabis movement who haven’t received the focus they deserve, regardless of possessing additional to drop than their freedom.

That is starting to alter, even so, thanks to a touring photography exhibition that is coming to San Diego in early August. The Faces of Cannabis, produced by Colorado artist and journalist Nichole Montanez, characteristics portraits of young healthcare marijuana sufferers and documentary photography that chronicles their successes and struggles with crucial illnesses.

Adversity Inspires Creativity

Montanez started the photo series just after her now 13-year-old niece, Hailey — affectionately identified as “Teapot” — started possessing seizures as an infant. The young girl was at some point diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a uncommon genetic disorder that causes serious epilepsy in kids. Montanez was quickly photographing the family’s ordeal, and just after becoming laid off from a newspaper job in 2012, she started assisting her sister care for Teapot complete-time. 

Back then, Montanez knew that Colorado voted to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis, but had restricted information of the topic. Like numerous other folks, she suspected that healthcare marijuana use was genuinely just a ploy by folks with ulterior motives to get higher.

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


But that changed when Montanez discovered about Charlotte Figi, a different young Colorado girl with Dravet syndrome. At the time, Charlotte was one particular of Colorado’s youngest healthcare marijuana sufferers and was displaying fantastic progress with a cannabis oil formulation from a strain low in THC but higher in CBD. The strain would later be named Charlotte’s Internet in honor of the young pioneering patient.

Montanez arranged to meet with Charlotte and her mother Paige at their residence. When Montanez got there, Charlotte was happily consuming — a stark contrast to Teapot back at house, who could no longer consume and was getting sustenance by means of a feeding tube.

“To see Charlotte consuming meals was my moment of ‘Oh my God, I want this. We want this for her,’” Montanez stated. “From that point on I was paying focus.”

Montanez started meeting other households with kids who utilised cannabis medicinally, which includes a handful of who moved to Colorado from across the nation to have access to medicine. But the course of action to get cannabis for Montanez’s niece wasn’t quick, even although she lived in a state with legal healthcare cannabis. The uncertainty and stigma related with healthcare marijuana was palpable, specifically for pediatric sufferers, and the reality most physicians have been reluctant to create suggestions for youngsters. 


Households Fight for Transform

Parents and family members members quickly realized they had to develop into activists to advance the healthcare marijuana movement, which Montanez stated had stalled just after initial progress in Colorado and the West Coast. That is when she realized her photography could be utilised to alter the minds of lawmakers and the public.

“We all have to obtain our function in this due to the fact we have to make this come about,” she stated. “Families are possessing to leave their house states and come [to Colorado] to have access to a plant that could potentially save a child’s life. That is not proper.”

Her project began with a objective to photograph portraits of the 50 Colorado youngsters who utilised healthcare marijuana at the time and produce a neighborhood exhibition.


“These are the new faces of cannabis,” Montanez stated, referring to the show’s theme. “These youngsters are proof that anything you believed you knew about cannabis and what it does may possibly be incorrect. So I wanted to challenge folks due to the fact I after believed the similar factor: that marijuana was for receiving higher. But I was incorrect and I know that now.”

But additional households kept coming to Colorado as healthcare marijuana refugees. So, Montanez had additional subjects to photograph. As word of her project spread, she began traveling to other states to take portraits and document the cannabis journeys of other young sufferers.

“I had close to 300 portraits of youngsters and an whole physique of documentary photography,” Montanez stated, “and not only from Colorado, but from all about the nation.” 


Cannabis Provides a Mother Hope

Allison Ray Benavides, a licensed clinical social worker from San Diego, discovered of Montanez’s project by means of a network of parents who treat their children’s crucial ailments with cannabis. Her son Robby was diagnosed with a seizure disorder identified as Doose syndrome, just as the possible for CBD to treat such circumstances was becoming identified. When it became apparent that the typical pharmaceutical remedy wasn’t operating for her son, she was grateful to have a different solution.

Benavides reached out to contacts in Colorado through social media to get a medication produced with Charlotte’s Internet. But cannabis’ Schedule I status produced sending oils across state lines illegal and, hence, a threat for absolutely everyone involved. That didn’t matter, although. Sooner or later, adequate Charlotte’s Internet tincture produced it to California for 20 youngsters to start remedy, which includes Robby, who was three-years-old at the time.

While it didn’t perform overnight and the dosage of CBD and his other drugs expected an adjustment period, Robby has generally been seizure-absolutely free for 5 years. He was at some point in a position to do away with all but one particular of the prescription drugs — and associated side effects — from his remedy regimen.

“For a kid with Doose syndrome to be on one particular pharmaceutical and CBD, and to have had a 5-year stretch with no seizures is fairly phenomenal,” she stated. “So we’re quite, quite blessed. My son has been thriving. He can study now and hold the mainstream at college.”


When Benavides located out that Montanez would be in Los Angeles to take portraits of young sufferers in 2014, she drove Robby from San Diego for the photoshoot. She’s proud of the exhibition and believes that it is a fitting tribute to the sufferers and households that reignited the healthcare marijuana movement.

“These of us who have been there at the starting, these of us whose kids suffered, and these who have youngsters who’ve died so that we can be right here now, we can really feel passionate about creating positive that they stay recognized for their contribution,” she stated.

That contribution legitimized the possible of cannabinoid therapies and helped spur a revolution in the remedy of seizure problems and other significant ailments by means of the help of cannabis.

“They did not just alter the healthcare marijuana movement,” Benavides stated. “They actually changed medicine forever.”


Scope of the Exhibition Grows

Immediately after 5 years, the project had grown to include additional than 10,000 photos. With such a massive physique of perform to pull from, Montanez’s exhibition evolved from the original portraiture to include things like an installation piece and some of the documentary photography. 

Components of the show have been exhibited 5 occasions across Colorado, Dallas, and California, with future dates in the operates for showings in Massachusetts and additional galleries in Colorado. With so numerous subjects in the portfolio, Montanez is ordinarily in a position to curate every single exhibit to include things like kids from the neighborhood region and invite them to the opening reception.

“The genuinely neat element about when I did the initially [exhibit] in Colorado, was that when folks came to the show, they weren’t just hunting at photographs of youngsters, they have been also seeing these youngsters at the gallery,” stated Montanez. “So, they have been in a position to interact with [the children] and see them in a way that they’ve genuinely never ever believed about [youth] prior to.”


Montanez stated that although the story of these young healthcare marijuana sufferers (popularized by Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN and other folks) was instrumental in advancing healthcare cannabis legislation in numerous states, she’s afraid they’ll be forgotten. Reform was produced achievable by the serious illnesses of kids, which, in turn, has lead to a nationwide CBD craze that is additional about turning a profit than celebrating the healing properties of the plant — or the folks who produced the market achievable. 

“Without the need of these youngsters, we most likely would not have had as significantly legislation in this brief of time,” she explains. “And now there is an whole market constructed about it and I am not comfy with them just placing the youngsters aside and saying, ‘Okay. Suitable. We got our CBD and we’re creating our jelly beans and our cocktails and you have carried out your job.’ No, that trivializes anything. So I just want to continue to inform the story for as lengthy as I am in a position to do that.”

Benavides is grateful for that commitment.


The Faces of Cannabis comes to the La Bodega Gallery in San Diego for one particular evening only on Saturday, August 3rd, from 5PM to 10PM. Additional than 90 photos from the series, which includes portraits, documentary photography, and the installation piece will be on show. Specific guests will include things like Nichole Montanez, an installation artist, Allison Ray Benavides, and her son Robby, who is now 9-years-old. 

“Our kids reside on the fringe and we are so marginalized,” Benavides stated. “And I assume any chance to place them at the center is healing and vital. Our kids deserve this show, thinking of the contribution that they have produced to contemporary medicine.”

The gallery is positioned at 2196 Logan Avenue, San Diego, California, 92113. The opening reception commences at 5PM. For additional facts check out La Bodega Gallery on the internet or “The Faces of Cannabissite.


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