Seattle’s Hempfest 2015 had tens of thousands of attendees on its last and warmest day, creating snarling traffic that sent Allie Beckett on an hour-long odyssey to find parking. The endless circling would exhaust anyone — and the 23-year-old photojournalist was of course frustrated — but by the time she arrived at the festival, she was smiling and exuberant, open and eager for the experience in front of her.
In some sense, Beckett has been navigating traffic for the last five years as she documents Washington’s shift from a medical cannabis market to a recreational one. Beckett had been interested in photography throughout her childhood under her photographer father’s influence, but she did not begin professionally photographing until 2011. That year, she became part of a phenomenon, one of only a handful who turned their lens exclusively upon the cannabis community. When Washington became one of the first states to legalize cannabis for adult-use along with Colorado in 2012, Beckett found herself uniquely positioned to chronicle the transition with an insider’s eye.
While the turn toward legalization in 2012 initially filled her with optimism, Beckett says the years since have become increasingly depressing due to piles of murky government regulations and the crowds of profit-driven companies edging out the medical community that Beckett cherished. But again, Beckett approached the challenge in front of her with enthusiasm and enterprise.
“I wanted to document Washington’s cannabis market because I knew it would change,” she says. “I thought it was important to create a tangible record of the people who have contributed to the movement at this unique moment in time.”
With help from colleagues and friends in the industry, Beckett visited grow areas, dispensaries, protests and industry events, recording the paradigm shift in as monumental a way as the famed photographs of bars filled with people raising glasses to celebrate the end of alcohol prohibition in 1933.
Beckett’s photos illustrate her talent for collaboration — as many shots highlight people she has known and worked with for years — and her desire to give back to a cannabis community she feels has been a family to her. Through her photos, Beckett says she tries to emphasize a compassionate and honest eye.
“Documentary photography is about capturing what’s there and I want to leave that up to interpretation and be the conduit for that,” says Beckett, who prefers candid photography and avoids composing and posing pictures whenever she can. “When you bring a subculture to light, people are going to have pre-judgments about it that you don’t want to reinforce.”
Her book, “As The Grass Grows,” is yet another expression of her photo-journalistic efforts to highlight this massive societal shift. She plans to continue photographing the maturation of Washington’s cannabis industry, as well as the new legal cannabis industry in Oregon that began July 1, 2015.
The following collection of photos captures history in the making, a once-in-a-lifetime moment in time for Washington’s legal cannabis industry and provides a preview for the collection of U.S. states weighing cannabis legalization in 2016.
TKO Reserve’s medical production facility in Seattle features no-till communal plant beds – half Harlequin (CBD) and half Sour Diesel.
Cannabis Club Collective’s medical grow in Tacoma, Washington.
A cannabis leaf from an organic, outdoor CBD strain grown by TKO Reserve
Crinan Kurty takes inventory at a medical cannabis operation located in the heart of Seattle. Kurty is one of many millennials who moved cross country to pursue ambitions of working in the cannabis industry.
It was a historic day in Washington state when the Lynnwood Police Department returned confiscated plants and equipment from a raid they had conducted on a medical grow at Sky High Gardens a year earlier. Here, the Sky High processing team sorts through the returned product for any salvageable material.
Hanging buds are taken down to be weighed and put in c-vaults to finish the curing process.
TKO Reserve warns the public not to trespass on their outdoor grow.
Aerial shot of Permafrost in Dawgstar Cannabis Seattle’ I-502 recreational grow operation.