For many, cannabis legalization is almost like a good dream; after years of watching the plant get demonized, people finally get to see it receive the positive attention it deserves. For Tim Pate, an artist and activist from the American Northwest, the best way to channel these demons is to put them on pumpkins, light one up and celebrate Halloween. Pate has been decorating spooky pumpkins for locals and fighting the good fight for years, spreading the word about cannabis and all the positive experiences he has had with the plant throughout his lifetime and advising on rules for legalization. Pate has also been carving pumpkins exclusively for CULTURE over the years, so this Halloween, we sat down with him to talk cannabis, carving, the Grateful Dead and things that go bump in the night.
How did you first start making art, and what are your inspirations? Were you always an artist or did this develop later in life?
I’ve been an artist my entire life. My great-grandfather taught me how to carve pumpkins when I was 14. Nature has always been my greatest inspiration, and carving faces is my biggest challenge and pleasure.
What inspired the cannabis-themed pumpkins? What is the idea behind them, and how did this get started?
I know a lot of cannabis dispensary owners and have carved quite a few pumpkins to decorate their stores, so I’m always trying to think of something new that will be fun and challenging, and CULTURE Magazine has pushed me artistically, too. The idea behind it is fun and money. Agro-entertainment is big business, and I’ve been involved in it for 18 years. The pumpkin patch I carve for on Sauvie Island [in Oregon] is having its 50th year anniversary this year.
How did you first start using cannabis? Has the plant always been a part of your life?
My first taste was at Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the “smoke hole.” But don’t tell anybody; I might get in trouble!
How has cannabis affected your life, your health and your creativity? What impact has it had on you?
I spent 17 years in the crisis business, and I worked on the Rock Medicine team for the Grateful Dead from 1988, until Jerry Garcia died in 1995. I was the buckstopper in the Down Tent and never saw a cannabis overdose. It got me to thinking, and I came to the conclusion that cannabis was not harmful, so I became an activist. I’ve spent the last 22 years on Mainstage at the Seattle Hempfest declaring the goodness of cannabis and will do so ‘til I’m gone. I’m also featured in the book Cannabis Saved My Life, and it did just that . . . saved my life. And yes, when I have great pot, I can do great things creatively.
What do you think about legalization so far? What could be done better or differently, and how are you involved with activism?
When I began as an activist, recreational cannabis was a dream. Now it’s a reality. I love it. For the past five years I’ve served on the [Industrial Hemp Rules Advisory Committee] for the State of Oregon and helped write the rules we work under.
Do you have any cool plans for Halloween pumpkin carving this year?
Carve for CULTURE, Fox News, NBC. I have 15 days, 15 different locations in a row so . . . it’s all cool to me.