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Modern Prohibition: The Hidden World Of Medical Marijuana, In Pictures

Go behind the scenes of the medicinal marijuana economy–which exists in a strange land between legality and criminality–in these beautiful photos.

Some places in North America–like California–have extremely lax medical marijuana laws; you don’t need to have much more than a headache to get a doctor’s note for some weed. That doesn’t take away from the fact that there are still many ill patients in need of relief. For better or worse (generally, for worse), they’re forced to operate in an underground economy that, while technically legal, is still cordoned off from the rest of society.

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Toronto-based photographer Eugen Sakhnenko has captured this hidden world in “It’s Medicinal,” a show documenting the marijuana industry in Ontario. Sakhnenko explains the series of photos in a statement:

“Many images depict plain spaces, easily mistaken for a dentist’s reception area or a dispensary window at a walk-in clinic. When juxtaposed with hacked-together grow rooms, like projects from a ’50s science magazine, we begin to see the effects of prohibition. Ordinary citizens go into hiding, our idea of them becoming the product of brief glimpses beneath the surface–through a film, an evening news report, or an overheard conversation. Pulling back the curtain, we’re confronted with a duality that’s hard to make sense of. Like laws themselves, our perception falls victim to time. We’ve never met a grower but we’re sure of who they are. We don’t know why it’s illegal, but we’re confident that it should be.”

Sakhnenko’s photos, pictured in the slideshow above, force viewers to leave their imaginings behind and confront medical marijuana culture as it really is. His hope: to inspire conversation around “a legal system steeped in fact and rationality rather than opinion and tradition.”

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“It’s Medicinal” opens on June 7th in Toronto.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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