TBT: The Marijuana Ambulance

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, the historical referendum that legalized the use of medical marijuana for patients who need it. It was the first huge victory won by the cannabis community and paved the way for other states, ultimately leading to full-blown legalization in Colorado and Washington.

Naturally, High Times was on the story. News editor Bill Weinberg, who currently writes about the international War on Drugs in the magazine on the web, wrote a feature examining what we called “America’s Marijuana Rebellion.” And because of the momentous development in California, we wanted to feature medical marijuana on the cover of High Times for the first time (April 1997).

I came up with the concept. I went shopping at Toy ‘R’ Us for an ambulance. Then I bought a couple ounces of pot. On a Sunday morning, I drove to an industrial section of Queens, NY, near where I live. I positioned the ambulance on the curb, stuffing it with buds so it looked as if they were spilling out the backdoor. Then I tilted the camera slightly to make the ambulance seem as if it was careening down the street.

So there I was, lying prone on the sidewalk, shooting a toy ambulance, when an NYPD cruiser rolled by to check out the body lying on the sidewalk – mine. I rolled over just as they pulled up and immediately turned the ambulance’s backdoor away from them. Their window went down and they asked what I was doing.

“Shooting toys,” I shrugged dramatically and laughed, “What am I gonna do? It’s my job!”

They laughed, too, and rolled on. And that’s exactly when my photo shoot ended. As a pot photographer, you take risks when you shoot outdoors. I never tempt fate. The next morning I dropped the ambulance off at a “Toys for Tots” Christmas Tree in the MetLife Insurance building in Manhattan. We made some kid’s holiday!

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