Located in the downtown core, the event venue was pretty easy to find. I just looked for the busy lineup outside with blaring live music. This was my first time attending a community event, and it definitely had that nice local vibe. Entry was pretty easy, and when I got inside, I noticed right away that there were 2 massive lineups. One line was for the customers to apply for medical marijuana rec cards from the on-site doctors, while the other was to get into the ShowGrow Dispensary.
Waiting in line, I ended up talking to Monica and Nico from L.A. We joked about how Nico decided to eat non-medicated candy at the event. We also chatted about what brought them there, and what they were looking forward to in the future of legalization. These are their summed up responses:
“My mom is involved in medicine, and it’s [so] taboo for her to talk about it at work. I’m happy with legalization, it’ll open up the conversation. It’s something that needs to be talked openly about!” ~Monica
“I’m just here for the good weed! *Laughs*” ~Nico
I also had to holler at the fellow photographers that were working Media for the event. I met Dim Slum, a very talented L.A. photographer who focuses on a stylish urban style. He represents the reach of the cannabis industry to me. Growers grow, dispensaries sell, consumers buy and that money and success helps others. Those involved in various surrounding industries benefit from new cannabis businesses and competition. Dim tells me, “Although cannabis is a new industry, the flock of competition from photographers/videographers is already rushing in.”
“I used to photograph for a cannabis company involved with High Times, but they got raided and shut down…” ~Dim Slum
This message was also a good reminder about the obstacles that the Cannabis industry faces, and its potential to affect other ones. I had a couple questions for the ShowGrow staff about the event. One staff member said the CFO would be able to answer my questions better. After my first question, he led me to the Sachin the CRO instead. I introduced myself, and when I mentioned Canada, he told me the owners of ShowGrow are from Montreal, Canada! Awesome! Sachin came to L.A. just 6 weeks ago from New York. He got into the industry because of his co-worker, a fellow Wall Street guy, who asked if he was interested in joining the ShowGrow team. He saw the appeal and here he is now, working with a top dispensary in Los Angeles.
“We put this event together to bring the community out and have a good time. It’s about building an eco-system that’s enjoyable and fun for everyone.” ~Sachin, CRO ShowGrow
Mid-conversation, a staff member notifies Sachin that Zach is inside. Who’s Zach? I wondered. Sachin tells me he wants to introduce me to someone. I follow him and we walk straight past the lineup of 75-100 people and straight into the ShowGrow ShowRoom. This move reminded me of getting line bypass at a club, it was pretty cool. This was my first time inside a legal dispensary. It was massive; in the middle was an island counter; product and weed everywhere. Even police officers were inside walking around and having a good time! I continued to follow Sachin and we walked up to a tall, lanky guy rocking sunnies and a noticeable tattoo above his eye. “This is Zach…. he’s the guy who altered the Hollywood Sign to say Hollyweed” Sachin says.
“I just want to make sure the message is clear. It’s about being and staying youthful and living in the purest form. I think this project really allowed me to express that.” ~Zach via VICE
A huge smile instantly lit up my face with a slight chuckle. I remembered the day when the “Hollyweed” news happened, but I couldn’t laugh at the hilarity of the whole situation. The Hollyweed sign even became a profile photo in one of my chat groups because I loved it so much. What Zach did had to be one of the most viral and positive displays of Marijuana in the recent decade. The timing and the idea behind it was spot on. We, the audience, loved it. You would coin Zach “an overnight success”– he literally did the project at night, just in time for the morning news. And here he was… right in front of me.
Friendly, happy, chatty; he shared so many great stories of how everything just exploded after that incident, such as meeting Tommy Chong, going on VICE and some future projects. What I didn’t realize about the whole Hollyweed story at that time was that it was an art project, not just a vandalism story that the media focused on. If you look closely at the Hollyweed sign, you can see that Zach pays homage to Danny Finegood. In 1976, Danny (a student at Cal State) changed the sign to Hollyweed as part of a school art project. In his article with VICE, Zach mentions that the main goal of this newer piece was “to bring about conversation” in a positive way.
The project was fun and risky, had humor, a bit of shock value, good timing, a great message, and it just happened to be on the most iconic sign in Los Angeles. The negative attention? Trespassing and vandalism? In my eyes that’s invalid. He used black and white fabrics to create the letters “ee” and once that fabric gets removed, there’s no destruction or damage to the actual, admittedly historic sign. Let it slide. The positive? A powerful global message to the changing laws and culture of cannabis.
“I literally just changed the Venice Sign to ‘Be Nice’ right before I got here” ~Jesus Hands
Even when I look at that photo, I still can’t help to laugh. It’s one of my best weed memories in Los Angeles to this date. I hope to share a J with Zach one day. I went back outside, to check out some of the live music, and the giant Jenga games going on. While watching, I came across some other great people.
“We’re excited about the different ways we can consume cannabis, especially in a safe and happy way” ~Anthony and Laurie
“I Miss D.C.! I love the people, they are more real. I feel there are better opportunities back home, but I’m staying in L.A. to smoke freely” ~Moe from D.C.
“A gala featured my work on Human Consciousness this month, I’m interested in the way marijuana fosters this interaction” ~Parinya Champ
“I’m from Colorado, ain’t nothing here I haven’t seen, my nigga” ~Dom and Rod
I was really happy to get to connect with people in the community. That’s what made the experience worth it for me. With the negative light still cast over Marijuana as a culture, I got to meet people that worked on Wall Street, artists to travellers, locals, skaters, married couples and viral icons. These are the consumers, the everyday real people who all enjoy the plant in a judgment-free environment. There are still laws about smoking marijuana in public, so this was a smoke-free event. I hope the next time I’m back in L.A. I can toke up while asking these awesome people even more questions.