Searching for the common thread in this year’s sea of political and social coverage
As one of maybe two or three reporters, including sometimes DigBoston contributor Mike Crawford, who has covered grass in Mass from outright prohibition on through decriminalization and more recent recreational milestones, I can confidently argue that this has by far been the most amazingly impactful year for cannabis in our Commonwealth’s history. I also say that as the editor of Talking Joints Memo, the Dig’s companion pro-pot newsletter and soon-to-be standalone site; combing through the several hundred headlines we compile each month to help industry nerds and consumers alike stay on top of news from Western Mass to Cape Cod, it blows my mind how much actually decent coverage there is these days. When we did year-end cannabis reviews in years past, it was rare to find much reporting at all on the topic, let alone thoughtful and informative consideration of tangential issues such as patient rights and home grows.
I spent hours this last week reading a lot of articles from 2018, by us as well as others, that could appropriately illustrate the full-throttle trajectory of weed in Massachusetts these past 12 months. There were several interesting and mention-worthy moments, on the business as well as the culture side—from all the dumb ass local politicians and their ignoramus paranoid constituents who eschewed the potential benefits and opportunities of having cannabis in their municipalities, to the blatant disdain that some people in high places have for smaller players angling for their piece of the pie, to the war on hemp, to the latest classist indefensible attack on Freedom Rally-goers by humorless pricks whose houses overlook the Common.
That’s a lot of stories covering a lot of ground, to be sure. But I found a common thread among them all, even the shitty ones, in searching for a way to properly look back. As it turns out, cannabis coverage in 2018 wasn’t driven by the press at all, but instead by the demand of readers—for honest information about everything from how to safely consume edibles to when and where dispensaries are opening in certain areas and what hurdles they face. I’m sorry if this comes off sounding corny, like when Time magazine chose “You” as its Person of the Year, but it’s true, and one story that broke out of Western Mass last week serves as a signifier of how far we’ve come since January.
When occasional Dig writer Andy Gaus brought it to my attention that the Greater Springfield YMCA had posted a memorandum threatening its members who walk in smelling of herb, I instinctively passed on the story. We spend enough time around here harassing know-nothings and prohibitionists, and especially with Springfield being so far outside of our coverage range, I figured it was just another prejudicial fit of normie rage. Admittedly, the last thing I expected was for there to be a massive public outcry in response to the viral memo, or for the YMCA director who wrote it to be forced to apologize. I should have predicted the backlash, since NETA, one of the state’s first legal operations, starting selling rec weed not too far from Springfield last month and has had a line of people wrapped around its building in Northampton since. But even I tend to forget that we have come a long way from the days when marijuana haters had the final word.
Look, the media is still full of prohibitionist frauds—from those who never once opined about prescription drug- and opioid-impaired driving but proactively echo the frantic police narrative on the scourge of stoned motorists, to imbeciles like Howard Scott of the Patriot Ledger who took edibles for the first time, drove to and from the hardware store in an inebriated state, and then questioned the prudence of legalization.
Looking at the bigger picture, though, I’m more excited about where this is all headed than I am disgusted by how things unfolded in the recent past, and that’s not something I can say about anything else that my newspaper covers—from local development, to the environment, to homelessness. There will be snags along the way, as well as an uphill battle for groups that were most devastated by the war on drugs to get as many seats at the table as possible, but overall we’re steering in a positive direction.
With all of that considered, looking back doesn’t seem nearly as important as peering ahead into the uncharted abyss that is the East Coast cannabis frontier.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.