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


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

Pictures 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 — individuals who devoted their lives to advocate for adjust by placing their reputations and liberty at threat. These outspoken, groundbreaking pioneers are nicely identified amongst cannabis neighborhood. But there’s an additional group of heroes in the health-related cannabis movement who haven’t received the focus they deserve, regardless of obtaining a great deal extra to drop than their freedom.

But that is starting to adjust 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, options portraits of young health-related marijuana individuals and documentary photography that chronicles their successes and struggles with important illnesses.

Adversity Inspires Creativity

Montanez started the photo series right after her now 13-year-old niece Hailey — affectionately identified as “Teapot” — started obtaining seizures as an infant. The young girl was at some point diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a uncommon genetic disorder that causes extreme epilepsy in kids. Montanez was quickly photographing the family’s ordeal, and right 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 understanding of the topic. Like numerous other people, she suspected that health-related marijuana use was truly just a ploy by individuals with ulterior motives to get higher.

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


But that changed when Montanez discovered about Charlotte Figi, an additional young Colorado girl with Dravet syndrome. At the time, Charlotte was 1 of Colorado’s youngest health-related marijuana individuals and was displaying wonderful progress with a cannabis oil formulation from a strain low in THC but higher in CBD. The strain would later be named Charlotte’s Net in honor of the young pioneering patient.

Montanez arranged to meet with Charlotte and her mother Paige at their home. When Montanez got there, Charlotte was happily consuming — a stark contrast to Teapot back at household, who could no longer consume and was getting sustenance by way 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, like a couple of who moved to Colorado from across the nation to have access to medicine. But the procedure to get cannabis for Montanez’s niece wasn’t uncomplicated, even even though she lived in a state with legal health-related cannabis. The uncertainty and stigma linked with health-related marijuana was palpable, especially for pediatric individuals, and the truth most physicians had been reluctant to create suggestions for children. 


Households Fight for Transform

Parents and family members members quickly realized that they would have to come to be activists to continue to advance the health-related marijuana movement, which Montanez stated had stalled right after initial progress in Colorado and the West Coast. That is when she realized her photography could be utilised to adjust the minds of lawmakers and the public.

“We all have to discover our function in this simply because we have to make this take place,” she stated. “Families are obtaining to leave their household states and come [to Colorado] to have access to a plant that could potentially save a child’s life. That is not suitable.”

Her project began with a objective to photograph portraits of the 50 Colorado children who utilised health-related marijuana at the time and build a regional exhibition.


“These are the new faces of cannabis,” Montanez stated, referring to the show’s theme. “These children are proof that anything you believed you knew about cannabis and what it does may well be incorrect. So I wanted to challenge individuals simply because I as soon as believed the very same issue: that marijuana was for acquiring higher. But I was incorrect and I know that now.”

But extra households kept coming to Colorado as health-related marijuana refugees. So, Montanez had extra 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 individuals.

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


Cannabis Offers a Mother Hope

Allison Ray Benavides, a licensed clinical social worker from San Diego, discovered of Montanez’s project by way of a network of parents who treat their children’s important ailments with cannabis. Her son Robby was diagnosed with a seizure disorder identified as Doose syndrome, just as the prospective for CBD to treat such situations was becoming identified. When it became apparent that the typical pharmaceutical therapy wasn’t functioning for her son, she was grateful to have an additional alternative.

Benavides reached out to contacts in Colorado by means of social media to get a medication produced with Charlotte’s Net. But cannabis’ Schedule I status produced sending oils across state lines illegal and, hence, a threat for absolutely everyone involved. That didn’t matter, even though. At some point, sufficient Charlotte’s Net tincture produced it to California for 20 children to start therapy, like Robby, who was three-years-old at the time.

While it didn’t function overnight and the dosage of CBD and his other drugs expected an adjustment period, Robby has fundamentally been seizure-free of charge for 5 years. He was at some point capable to eradicate all but 1 of the prescription drugs — and associated side effects — from his therapy regimen.

“For a kid with Doose syndrome to be on 1 pharmaceutical and CBD, and to have had a 5-year stretch with no seizures is quite phenomenal,” she stated. “So we’re incredibly, incredibly blessed. My son has been thriving. He can study now and maintain the mainstream at college.”


When Benavides located out that Montanez would be in Los Angeles to take portraits of young individuals 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 individuals and households that reignited the health-related marijuana movement.

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

That contribution legitimized the prospective of cannabinoid therapies and helped spur a revolution in the therapy of seizure issues and other critical ailments by way of the help of cannabis.

“They did not just adjust the health-related marijuana movement,” Benavides stated. “They actually changed medicine forever.”


Scope of the Exhibition Grows

Soon after 5 years, the project had grown to include extra than 10,000 photos. With such a big physique of function to pull from, Montanez’s exhibition evolved from the original portraiture to involve 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 functions for showings in Massachusetts and extra galleries in Colorado. With so numerous subjects in the portfolio, Montanez is typically capable to curate every exhibit to involve kids from the regional location and invite them to the opening reception.

“The truly neat portion about when I did the initially [exhibit] in Colorado, was that when individuals came to the show, they weren’t just seeking at photographs of children, they had been also seeing these children at the gallery,” stated Montanez. “So, they had been capable to interact with [the children] and see them in a way that they’ve truly in no way believed about [youth] just before.”


Montanez stated that even though the story of these young health-related marijuana individuals (popularized by Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN and other people) was instrumental in advancing health-related cannabis legislation in numerous states, she’s afraid they’ll be forgotten. Reform was produced attainable by the extreme illnesses of kids, which, in turn, has lead to a nationwide CBD craze that is extra about turning a profit than celebrating the healing properties of the plant — or the individuals who produced the business attainable. 

“With out these children, we likely would not have had as a great deal legislation in this quick of time,” she explains. “And now there is an complete business constructed about it and I am not comfy with them just placing the children aside and saying, ‘Okay. Ideal. We got our CBD and we’re producing our jelly beans and our cocktails and you have completed your job.’ No, that trivializes anything. So I just want to continue to inform the story for as extended as I am capable to do that.”

Benavides is grateful for that commitment.


The Faces of Cannabis comes to the La Bodega Gallery in San Diego for 1 evening only on Saturday, August 3rd, from 5PM to 10PM. Much more than 90 photos from the series, like portraits, documentary photography, and the installation piece will be on show. Unique guests will involve 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 consider any chance to place them at the center is healing and essential. 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 extra details go to La Bodega Gallery on line or “The Faces of Cannabisweb site.


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