How To Cover The First Day Of Recreational Weed


Your guide to cannabis reporting on the Commonwealth’s Super Bowl Fun Day


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As you may have seen on every news site in the Commonwealth all day and night for several weeks now, plus on innumerable Facebook pages as well as on television newscasts, Cultivate in Leicester and New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton start selling recreational weed—plus edibles, concentrates, and so forth—this Tuesday. It’s a topic of significant importance that we have been anticipating at DigBoston for two decades, and especially the last two years. So it’s entertaining to watch a wide range of others in the media not simply dip their toes in but instead cover these new shops from the dab to the test lab, producing a shocking amount of grand opening cannabis coverage.


As a publication that was photographing and sampling buds in warehouses and basements when our cornball peers at other papers were opining against ballot questions that delivered decrim, medical, and ultimately rec weed, we remember when the dorks at Boston City Hall would give us hell over a cover with a pot leaf on it. Things have evolved, though, and now that you can buy green in a store, coverage is ubiquitous—with a lot of it decent, and a lot of it trash.


We are also guilty of running the good and cheesy stuff, mostly the former we hope, and we certainly produce and share a heap of all of the above through Talking Joints Memo, our free cannabis newsletter. But while we may have a reporter and photographer on the scene buying weed at dispensaries this week, we couldn’t miss this unique chance to gloat in the light of a milestone we knew would come despite the lies and hubris of a media that now swarms around pot shops the way they formerly predicted violent gangs would gather if we let the devil’s lettuce within state borders.


Make it national

We may be mocking mainstream media for salivating over something its reporters found distasteful up until a couple years ago, but it’s nonetheless true that this is a major event. Which is why so many TV journalists are acting like the Virgin Mary has landed in Leicester and Northampton. After all, this isn’t just the first place you can walk in and legally purchase a vape pen in Mass, but rather on the whole damn East Coast and thousands of miles inland as well. There’s a Mary Jane joke in there somewhere, but with so many people covering the weed game these days, we have to reserve our best pot puns for covers and headlines.


Report on the menu like it’s Watergate

Here’s one that you can do right from your computer, no travel required. For a prime example, look no further than this clickbait candy from MassLive: “Pre-rolls, chocolate bars and chews: 10 recreational marijuana products available at NETA Northampton.” Even we scrolled up and down and drooled for a few minutes. We never thought outlets of record would so shamelessly pimp weed porn, but we’ll take it.


Prepare the uninitiated

Perhaps the easiest way to attract eyeballs is with an explainer piece aimed at the aunts and uncles who allegedly smoked pounds of pot back in the day but can no longer recall how to break up weed and load a pipe. Have things changed a lot in the past half-century? Sure. Are things like rigs, oil, and sauce overly complicated? You bet, even for the pros around our newsroom. At the same time, we had to buy a coffee machine a few weeks ago for the Dig office, and while we’d never done that before, none of us were too intimidated walking into Sears. We just kind of figured it out. And unlike at Sears, these dispensaries will actually have enough employees working there to help you.


Call the cops

This category of coverage yields headlines like, “Local police want recreational pot users to know the laws before buying marijuana,” and lines like, “Northampton Police are not too worried about people driving high, but they want consumers to know about the dangers.” We live in a state where a prohibitionist bullshit Picasso like Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael is handed commission appointments related to cannabis and frequently quoted by journalists, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing stories like, “Northampton police make traffic change as 1st recreational marijuana shop opens in Massachusetts.” If police make an announcement and there’s cannabis within a couple of miles, then there must be a story there.


Warn people about edibles

One thing you will learn from reading most cannabis stories is that people get extremely wasted when they eat too many edibles. Ever since New York Times opinion writer Maureen Dowd detailed her experience in the famously humiliating column, “Don’t Harsh Our Mellow, Dude,” we’ve come to find that compared to the stiffs on Boston airwaves who slip into a subtle Spicoli mode after the scripted portion ends and on-air small talk with colleagues begins, the columnist is something of a seasoned stoner. More than anything, these are essentially news pieces in which reporters ask dispensaries what people should ask if they’re buying weed, and publicists from those dispensaries in turn say that those people should come and ask questions themselves. Just like they would at any other store on earth.


Warn people about their dogs eating edibles

Do you remember that classic television commercial warning people against pouring vodka into bowls for their dogs to lick up instead of water? Since that would make them sick? We don’t either, probably because there is no such thing. You’re not a complete idiot, right? Then you didn’t need an article reminding you to not poison your pet. We bet you still read a bunch of them though.

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