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"Grassland" is a series that peeks behind the curtain of pot production in California. (H. Lee)

America's Big Backyard Pot Business

by Claire O'Neill
Nov 7, 2012

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Claire O'Neill

"You're driving up from redwood country, in the most beautiful park in America ... and when it's not on your radar, you have no idea it exists," says photographer H. Lee — referring to the marijuana industry that has proliferated, though unofficially, in that region of Northern California.

The name "H. Lee" is actually the pseudonym she uses when discussing her documentary project and forthcoming book, Grassland. It all seems very secretive, and I guess that's kind of the point — but she makes her opinion clear, too: "I don't think it should be so hidden," she says on the phone.

With the passage of Colorado's Amendment 64 on Tuesday — effectively legalizing recreational marijuana in that state — it seems perhaps some of America shares that opinion, too.

Either way, there's no denying the size and scale of the industry, even if it's hard to quantify.

"It's really a gold rush right now," says Lee, who has spent years photographing the marijuana industry in Northern California. "It's really different from eight years ago when I first saw it. Even five years ago, you had to be really careful."

These days, she says, if you just keep an eye out, you'll see greenhouses along roadsides and billboards advertising pot industry materials.

"It's a fascinating place," she concludes. Her anonymous photo story gives an impression of a booming business many Americans never really see. At least for now.

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