[Note: “The Internet and Traditional Media Light Up” is also part 9 of Cannabis Commerce in the USA, found in its entirety here.]
Hollywood, Inc. has help.
The wild and woolly days of medical marijuana proliferation haven’t escaped the ever-vigilant eye of newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV news. Before it’s tweeted into oblivion, traditional media clings tenaciously to life – herbal life, that is.
Ironically, the internet – communications protocol of the future, once-faint military signal bulked Hulk-like into global homgenizer – conspires with the traditional town criers of the past, co-promoting cannabis commerce today.
Trumpeting pot topicality, the internet and traditional media act as competitors and allies. In tandem, these strange bedfellows have set off an “avalanche of publicity.”
How ironic that the commodity enjoying this notoriety has led a suppressed existence, denigrated as a lowly “weed,” until its recent ascension into the limelight. Now it stars in “The Green Rush.” Signals heralding the magic herb’s arrival as a bona fide economic force are received by everyone from Wall Street traders to cellphone-carrying Masai.
Surely, the end game for the “The Green Rush” must be legalization?
However, the process must still play out. Until the final act, free-flowing ink, bytes, and broadcasts solicit our hearts and minds.
Even if you no longer subscribe to a daily newspaper, you know which herb is the headline writer’s darling. After years of ignoring it, the pulp old guard is suddenly infatuated with the controversial plant matter. On slow news days, major metropolitan dailies actually run editorials endorsing legalization.
Why? Legalization sells. Conversely, resisting legalization brands your paper a fossil, just begging to be left in the dust by the newer, hipper internet.
Here’s what it’s come down to: the tobacco industry, which once bought as many full-page newspapers ads as any big business, now receives zero ink about the inroads it’s making attracting new users in low income areas.
If the fast food industry rates any ink for the gleaming new Jack-In-The-Box opening over on Speedway Boulevard, it’ll be a paragraph somewhere in the Local News section.
New car reviews get buried somewhere in the back of the Sports section, not splashed in 30-pt. type on the front page – even though the automotive industry still forks over a princely sum for full-page ads and two-page spreads.
But if a dispensary takes over a storefront from a mom and pop hardware store, KO’d by a nearby Home Depot . . . lo and behold . . . front page news. Screaming headlines.
On the national level, even the venerable AP fans the firestorm with “Arnold Schwarzenegger Says Pot is Not A Drug.” Whether your political bent is conservative, liberal, or moderate, that headline’s a little irresistible.
The previously shriveling pages of metropolitan weeklies are swollen with page after page of classified ads for dispensaries, collectives, and cooperatives. The same weeklies churn out one pro-pot story after another, the better to meet their audience where it lives.
Until tablet readers evolve to crush books like cell phones crushed pay phones, pulp publishers of every ilk will continue to exploit cannabis culture.
Potcentric magazines proliferate
On the glossy side, ever-slimmer versions of Time, Forbes, and Business Week – just to name a few – have jumped all over legalization topics. These include Time’s “Why Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense.” Hmm. Exactly why didn’t it make sense five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago?
High Times now has company in magazine racks. Numerous national publications have gotten in on the game, like Skunk, Cannabis Culture, and Weed World.
Kush has a nice empire going, followed closely by Post420 — they’re localized for the area they’re distributed, and are often found in waiting rooms of dispensaries and collectives.
A host of eager local zines like Most Hi and Marijuana Magazine have jumped in, too.
Boulder’s Rooster magazine changed its theme from beer ‘n babes to buds ‘n babes . . . and doubled its circulation in a month. In the Denver-Boulder area, about a dozen other print publications have emerged to satisfy unlimited curiosity about all things marijuana.
A nice side benefit is that the cannabis craze has provided a lifeline for graphic designers, harkening back to a time when counterculture iconography mesmerized a generation through concert posters, album covers, and comic books.
A hip makeover
Perhaps the most recognizable brand in pulp media has adapted to its cannabis-conscious readership. To its credit, as pressure mounts on maintaining a daily newspaper, The New York Times just keeps getting hipper and hipper. One of the ways it keeps getting hipper is by rolling out a succession of pot features.
The paper could change its slogan to “All The Marijuana News That’s Fit to Print.”
Mindful of the decomposing carcasses of former mammoths like the Rocky Mountain News scattered from sea to shining sea, the Times’ survival strategy makes sense.
Features like “Marijuana Fuels a New Kitchen Culture” are breezy and inviting. The lead photo of “Where Capitalism Meets Cannabis” features an arty and alluring calling card: a Strawberry Haze bud shot through a magnifying glass. “In Colorado, Pot-Selling Pioneers Try to Turn a Profit,” vies for your affection – and wins.
Coverage of city council meetings collides with cannabis commerce
City council meetings have long been mainstays of newspaper, radio, and TV news reportage. Conveniently, city council meetings tend to heat up whenever and wherever local medical marijuana regulations are “hashed out.”
Battles over how “Our Town, USA” deals with dispensaries, collectives, and cooperatives are godsends for reporters. “Knights of the keyboard,” accustomed to dozing off at city council meetings, get all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when the members tackle contentious, pot-related issues.
Skirmishes over how many feet away from daycare centers dispensaries can locate are always ripe for reporting pyrotechnics. The more contentious city council meetings get, the more readership and ratings rise.
9 News to the penitentiary
One Denver man was so flattered that 9 News field reporters deemed his home plantation newsworthy, he couldn’t resist bragging on camera about what a great country this was, where a little guy like him could grow a half-million dollars worth of weed in a suburban basement.
The 9 News camera crew, serving the public as always, showcased his operation — in all its bushy splendor.
There was just one problem. DEA agents watch TV, too. Although ordered to stand down by the Commander in Chief as long as medical marijuana caregivers follow local regulations, the DEA had one big question: did the happy homeowner have the required medical marijuana paperwork to support the size of his grow operation?
Essentially, a “caregiver” (read grower) could (emphasis on past tense; regulations have changed since I began writing this section!) grow six plants for every patient that named him a caregiver. The grower had the requisite paperwork for fifteen patients, meaning he could legally raise fifteen times six, or ninety plants.
The day following the broadcast, the DEA made a showy arrest, making sure their man was in custody if it developed the numbers weren’t in his favor. They weren’t. He was growing 150 plants. Whoops!
Of course, 9 News cameras were there to capture the arrest and seizure, too! The neighbors were aghast, contributing more dramatic video. After all, what if little Ashleigh and Duncan stumbled into that basement Little Shop of Horrors, never to be seen again?
Never would have happened if traditional TV news wasn’t all over the story.
One is less likely to unexpectedly encounter potcasts on the radio than newspapers or TV, but the medium contributes its fair share of reportage. NPR in particular has probed this area in depth.
Much of the action takes place in the burgeoning field of internet radio, exploited by the likes of marijuanaradio.com, PureTHC.com, and a host of contenders.
“Stoner Radio” stations program playlists tailored to the listening tastes of the like-minded.
An internet love affair
I’m tempted to tell you the magic herb has taken over the internet. Which it basically has. However, it’s not numero uno. King Porn still is, with its huge head start in number of sites and surfers.
Porno people outnumber “stoners.” That may never change. However, where it really counts, pot pummels porn in gross annual sales, $113 billion to $13 billion.
Sites like 420girls.com feature bud damsels in undress, keeping “abreast” (my bad) of both internet crazes. Want to see lithesome nymphs, strategically covered in purple buds? Wish granted. Forum members add to the mirth, sending in photos of themselves in similar garb, striking equally langorous poses.
Internet forums provide a perfect medium for learning how to grow, what to grow, and where to grow it. Should you grow hydroponically, aeroponically, or in soil? Which nutrients should you purchase? GrowAssistant.com can clear that up for you.
Want to know how to raise hydroponic indica, perhaps a soothing strain like White Rhino? Head on over to youtube.com and take in the videos. Or just Google “hydroponics.” The search results will keep you going for days.
If you’re into forums about any and every aspect of marijuana, you could do worse than grasscity.com. If that doesn’t work for you, the forums on 420magazine.com probably will.
Needless to say, the social media triumvirate of MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, pounds the drums for all things marijuana 24/7.
“Stoner pages,” like cannabis.com, 420pot.com, and marijuana.com, to pick a few out of untold thousands, offer tempting morsels of canna-knowledge.
On Legalization Day, expect mail order via the internet to go stone cold crazy as amateur and professional growers send away for every form of gardening supply from seeds, clones, lights, fertilizers, and containers to Rototillers. What a boon for UPS and FEDEX – even the creaky old post office.
Doubling the fun, the internet now hosts online versions of virtually every newspaper and magazine.
There’s really no end to it.
Although their stature as arbiters of taste has digital competition, daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines, radio news, talk radio, and TV have all pitched in to promote the cannabis cause.
On the internet side, too many web sites, blogs, and forums to count paint landscapes of greener pastures. With this juggernaut churning out infinite bits and bytes of free exposure, it’s easy to be bullish about herbal bullion.
Acceptance by the internet and traditional media means you now know “you’re not alone.” The stigma of being a “pothead” has been forever erased from mass consciousness – even as marijuana somehow remains classified a Schedule One drug, despite the best efforts of legalization advocates like Jon Gettman.
Exactly how does the support of these strange bedfellows affect MPMTR (maximum pot-entail marijuana taxation revenue), $75 billion at last count? Keeping with our sober projections, let’s say it’s already included in the measley 2% increase we credited Hollywood, Inc. last section. The promotional largesse of Hollywood, Inc., the internet, and traditional media fit neatly into the classification Free Advertising and Publicity.
I suspect Free Advertising and Publicity affects MPMTR way, way more than 2%; yet the cautionary words poteconomists Jeff Miron and Jon Gettman remain in my ear, tempering my natural enthusiasm.
This bump feels a lot more like 10%.
Next section preview
Cannabis Commerce in the USA caught its breath this section. It had to, after all the ground we’ve covered. But don’t get too relaxed: things build to a climax in the power-packed, “Political Implications of Cannabis Commerce” – coming right up!