Editor of cannabis site says 'We don't owe anyone'; Super Typhoon Yutu; 'premeditated' Khashoggi killing
Maybe if it took ads, it would be rich. Maybe if it focused on business, smoke-out events or weed ratings, Cannabis Wire could have capitalized on the boom of investment in marijuana journalism.
The site has expanded under a grant from Civil, with three new reporters and an editor, but Cannabis Wire has tried to stay focused on public health before profits. It writes accountability stories for a $6 billion industry that sees its sector swelling to $50 billion. The site doesn’t shift its gaze from uncomfortable issues such as racial disparities in marijuana profits and punishment.
“I feel like we don’t owe anyone,” said Nushin Rashidian, who co-founded the site with Alyson Martin. The two have also written “A New Leaf: The End of Cannabis Prohibition,” one of the first books about marijuana legalization.
“There’s a lot of cannabis journalism happening,” Rashidian told me from New York. “I feel like there is something to be said for trying really hard to document a really significant moment. There are decisions being made now that have implications for decades.”
Rashidian and Martin started on this path nearly a decade ago while on winter break from Columbia journalism school. Martin, from upstate New York, was visiting Rashidian and her family in Southern California when they took a stroll on Venice Beach.
“What is this?” Martin asked of the openly marijuana-smoking skateboarders, volleyballers, concrete court soccer players, spectators and passers-by.
“What is what?” responded a puzzled Rashidian, accustomed to a less-restrictive America than the one Martin lived in back home.
They wanted to document what they pictured would be a seismic change as Venice Beach spread to the rest of America. “We started Googling and never stopped,” Rashidian said.
As state after state has decriminalized medical and/or recreational marijuana use, Cannabis Wire has been reporting on issues on an industry that often made hyped claims as it grew.
For other journalists covering marijuana issues, Rashidian recommends skepticism on claims of miraculous health cures and revolutionary changes with use.
In legalized states, marijuana is evolving into basically an unsexy consumer product, she says. It’s marketed with testable dosages now, like alcohol percentages on beer and wine. More of it is edibles and oils. The marijuana is often from “known” farms, like locavore vegetables or craft brew. Are pesticides used? What’s the quality control?
The issues can become the same as for alcohol companies flirting with high-proof content. Basically, “don’t wreck the ecosystem,” Rashidian said. “Don’t put 300 milligrams of product in a single dose because someone is going to overdose.”
The range of Cannabis Wire is evident in its recent stories: How weak regulation from the start in Oregon both fueled a marijuana boom and endangers its sustainability. Who gets busted for weed on the border? Is your data safe if you buy legal cannabis? Why some medical marijuana patients in public housing have to choose between their prescription and their home.
What are the next steps for Cannabis Wire? Rashidian said it’s building out the morning newsletter and a subscription model over the next year. Content-wise, it will be looking to see if regulators, once very cautious, have moved too much the other way.
Nearly all states today allow either medical and/or recreational cannabis sales, Rashidian said, with the "no" states in the nation's center. “If you look at a map of the U.S., it looks like a green doughnut with a red hole in the middle.”
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HOW WORDS LEAD TO MURDER: Eyal Press recounts the demonization of doctors that led to the fatal shooting 20 years ago of Dr. Barnett Slepian, an abortion provider from the Buffalo suburb of Amherst. Slepian was slain in the kitchen of his home by an anti-abortion extremist. Researchers have shown patterns in the release of inciting propaganda and murder.
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THREE PAGES, ONE COVER: Time’s striking cover on gun control, with the French photographer JR.
CROSS-COUNTRY: The daily public radio news show “1A” will partner with six affiliates across the country in the runup to the 2020 elections, under a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The national show, produced by Washington's WAMU, is heard on 335 stations, Current's April Simpson reported.
STARTING MONDAY: Joy Lin, a former ABC, CBS and Fox News producer, will join CPB as its new vice president of journalism. Lin will focus on strategy, planning and major initiatives. Lin was most recently a producer on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”
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How Facebook deals with misinformation, in one graphic. By Daniel Funke.
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Have a good Friday and weekend ahead. See you on Monday.