It wasn’t long after reporter Dan Adams began sending out a weekly email recap of cannabis news in Massachusetts that The Boston Globe’s analytics team realized their readers were particularly interested in the subject. Not only were native residents reading up about the state’s decisions on legalization, but national readers seemed to be interested in Massachusetts laying the groundwork as the “new testbed” of East Coast legalization.
“The marijuana vertical seemed like a really obvious first choice after the surge in interest we saw on the analytics side when Massachusetts first voted to legalize,” says Matt Karolian, director of new initiatives at The Globe. Karolian and Adams have worked together for over five years at The Globe and pride themselves on knowing a promising journalistic opportunity when they see one.
“This was a subject that was going to change people’s lives in terms of what they saw when they looked outside their window,” explains Adams. “Whether this be new businesses in their community, potential new business opportunities or, ultimately, who was going to have access to this industry and make money off of it.”
And Massachusetts didn’t shy away from the fact that minorities are often the people left out of the business and money-making side of legalization. In fact, they were the first state to have an equity mandate written in as part of their legalization law to give priority to applicants from areas that were disproportionately affected by marijuana arrests and incarcerations.
“I covered the crime beat in New Orleans and Dallas and would see so many young African American men going to prison for years and sometimes getting life sentences for marijuana,” says Naomi Martin, who relocated to Boston in December to become The Globe’s second full-time cannabis reporter. “Those types of punishments have created a really big problem in this country.”
Environmental regulations in the cannabis industry have also recently come under the national spotlight. New England’s varying climate doesn’t lend itself well to outdoor cultivation, which means indoor regulations, such as only utilizing 36 watts per square foot and installing LEDs rather than traditional lightbulbs, have been enforced.
“You also have this childproof packaging on cannabis products and the unbelievable amount of plastic waste that comes with that,” says Adams. “I think most people would agree this is worth the safety tradeoff, but it’s still rather striking at a time when cities are moving to [ban] plastic drinking straws and bags.”
Moving forward, The Globe team is dedicating themselves to providing integral cannabis coverage not only to Massachusetts, but the greater New England area and the country at large.
“I think for a long time the mainstream media has contributed to an unbalanced conversation that Americans have been having about marijuana,” says Adams. “It’s a conversation that has either largely happened through the law enforcement assumptions and assertions, or you still have a lot of mainstream coverage that’s full of puns and treats it as a joke. It’s not a joke. Billions of dollars are being poured into this industry and there are people still in jail, most of them people of color, for marijuana crimes — none of that is a joke, and we don’t treat it as a joke. We treat it as a serious subject.”