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It should go without saying that those of us at Talking Joints Memo, many of whom have been covering and editing articles about weed for more than a decade for DigBoston and various other publications, are thrilled that more and more outlets have jumped on the cannabis bandwagon (as proof of our excitement, we produce this popular newsletter that links to all of them). Even if a lot of coverage is myopic, incorrect, or even downright idiotic. Like I have written for years, eventually most of the prohibitionist nonsense will get peeled back in all but the most ignorant conservative rags, just like how respectable mainstream newspapers, for example, quoted homophobes when writing about same-sex couples up until a couple of years ago.
With that said, there is nonetheless a troubling lack of institutional memory among those who report on weed, from the local to the national level. As a result, dangerous anti-pot fabulists are getting far more airtime than they should, while ordinary stories fail to recognize the backgrounds of the sources given free rein to editorialize. This past week alone, our team spotted three trending stories in particular that could use more perspective. Before getting to all of the headlines, we have provided excerpts from some of those recent articles below, along with links to relevant information that you are unlikely to get from reporters who still believe that reefer-mad voices deserve airtime.
First there is the news that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker finally made his picks for the 25-member Cannabis Advisory Board. From the State House News Service (via South Coast Today):
The governor’s five picks are: Walpole Chief of Police John Carmichael, Jr.; co-founder of the Hempest in Harvard Square and Yes on 4 campaign outreach director Kim Napoli; business management consultant Mary Ann Pesce; co-director of urban food production and sustainability initiative Mill City Grows Lydia Sisson; and CEO of the Urban League of Springfield Inc. Henry Thomas, III.
There are some solid choices there, especially for a cowardly cannabis opponent-turned- fence-sitter like Baker. But among the governor’s selections is also the worst possible person to tap, Walpole cop honcho Carmichael who, among other insults, campaigned against legalization in his police uniform, and apparently smuggled edibles from Colorado to Mass to display at a press conference. As Mike Crawford reported at this time last year:
Additionally concerning is that Carmichael has presented a stash of Colorado edibles at campaign events around the state. He says the display is for law enforcement purposes (it’s surprising he hasn’t called it an “educational aid”), but in any case I was curious about how said Rocky Mountain edibles wound up at a press conference in Mass. Were they imported illegally? Are they from police seizures? And if it’s the latter, can authorities go shopping in the evidence room for campaign props?
All observers, from advocates, to journalists, to the governor’s minions and aides, clearly know that Carmichael is a fraud and a liar. Still, his track record has already been whitewashed, with the Boston Globe allowing him to flaunt his expertise in preventing youth cannabis use. Nevermind that the guy might as well have been lobbying for an unregulated black market with all of the flawed characterizations he has made of recreational pot ops over the years.
Then there is Kevin Sabet, who keeps on showing up in conversations in respectable venues where viewers and readers expect the participants to be serious people—even though he has been repeatedly discredited. Sabet surfaces everywhere, always, but it was extra disappointing to hear him on the NPR show On Point this week. It’s an otherwise excellent episode, featuring important words from Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, among others. When you’re done listening to it, though, be sure to read about the time that New England-based cannabis advocate Dr. Keith Saunders made him look like a complete fool and wrote about it for the Dig.
Finally, for now at least, is the selective ignorance about the City of Boston’s past negotiation tactics with MassCann/NORML planners of the annual Freedom Rally. As MassCann organizer Andy Gaus reported in the Dig:
Before issuing permits, officials often hold a so-called citywide meeting with representatives of all affected departments of government. One such meeting took place on May 16, chaired by the since-indicted Kenneth Brissette, then director of the office of sports, tourism, and entertainment for Boston. At that meeting, city officials asked MassCann to hire a contingent of Boston police officers as security. Speaking for MassCann, activist Bill Downing said the group planned on hiring the park rangers to secure the festivities, and didn’t need the police. The meeting ended inconclusively, and instead of approving the permit, the city called a second citywide meeting on June 6—the first time there has been a second such meeting in the rally’s 29-year history.
Again, we’re happy to see so much cannabis coverage. We just encourage reporters—and readers, for that matter—to use Google more often, to more closely consider the misguided war on drugs that led us here (as well as the advocacy), and to disregard those who have been stubborn and wrong every step of the way.
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.