DAVE JORDANO’S FASCINATION with Detroit’s marijuana dispensaries borders on obsession. He’s photographed more than half of them, and remains fascinated by their bright colors, neon signs, and cheeky names like “House of Dank.”
Detroit’s Marijuana Dispensaries celebrates 82 of Motown’s most eclectic weed shops, which sprouted after Michigan legalized medical marijuana eight years ago. The law didn’t specifically address dispensaries, but many cities gave them tacit approval. In some cases, establishing a dispensary required nothing more than the same permitneeded to run a medical supply store.
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled dispensaries illegal in 2013, prompting Detroit to begin requiring dispensary owners to obtain licenses, submit to background checks, and meet health regulations. The city also relegated dispensaries to industrial and commercial zones and banned them from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, liquor stores, and other places. The rules caused 22 dispensaries to shut down.
Medical Marijuana Dispensary #48, Westside, Detroit
Jordano’s fascination started in January while working on his series Detroit Nocturne. After seeing a few, he started noticing them everywhere—in old hair salons, pharmacies, even strip clubs. “Once you get them on your radar, you drive down the street and you go, ‘Oh there’s one, there’s one, there’s another,” Jordano says.
According to estimates, Detroit has 150 dispensaries. Jordano made six trips from his home in Chicago between January and July, roaming the city with his Hasselblad H5D-50. The high contrast of each scene led him to make multiple exposures, ranging from an eighth of a second for the bright lights to three minutes for the deep shadows. Using Photoshop, Jordano blended three or four exposures to nail the highlights, midtones, and dark areas. The process is similar to HDR, but the end result doesn’t look as cheesy.
The photos capture a unique moment in the history of a city struggling to rebuild its economy and cultural identity while adapting to changing attitudes toward marijuana. For now though, Mr. Smiley’s and Sea Weed are still open for business.
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