One of the many great aspects of being a photojournalist is the opportunity to witness and document history.
I was fortunate to document an historic moment in Washington state and Yakima Valley history earlier this week – the first legal sales of marijuana in the state following the legalization of marijuana sales by state voters in 2012.
About 8:30 a.m. on July 8, 2014, marijuana went on sale at Altitude, a marijuana shop in Prosser, Wash. Altitude is one of two marijuana shops in the Yakima Valley; the other is in Union Gap and opened a day later.
Jerry Kidder, a cancer survivor, was the first to arrive at 6 a.m. The first in line, he made history as the first person to legally buy marijuana in Prosser. By the time the shop opened the line wrapped around the building.
It was hard to escape the importance of the event. Many of those in line talked about being there to be a part of history and wanting to witness the historic moment of marijuana legally going on sale in the state.
I wasn’t looking forward to the assignment. I figured that most, if not all, the customers would not want to have their faces shown purchasing marijuana (even though the the purchases were totally legal). If that was the case, I thought, it would be tough to make good photos. I arrived 45 minutes before the scheduled opening of the shop to have time to meet people and chat them up and warm them up to the prospect of being photographed.
Instead, I found that many of those first people in line were very open to being photographed and more than willing to be interviewed. It made my job much easier.
The beginning of legal marijuana sales is what I would call “big history.” And while it’s exciting and interesting to document these events, we’re also able to cover what may be called “small history,” local firsts, anniversaries, etc. As documentarians we must remember that while these events may be much more local they’re no less important and significant to those people involved. That means always doing our very best when photographing “small history.” For me, it’s also a privilege to cover these events.