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The days of cannabis journalism dominated by pothead stories on how to roll joints and profiles of cannabis-loving rappers are making way for a new kind of reportage in Canada: business journalism mixed with deep peerings into the wider culture of cannabis.

Many legacy Canadian newspapers are taking cannabis reporting so seriously in the newly legalized landscape they have devoted entire sections to the sector. For example, the Winnipeg Free-Press launched The Leaf in 2018, where Solomon Israel writes up to four articles a week.

The Globe & Mail and the National Post also launched their own separate sections focusing on cannabis, often readable behind a paywall.

“Business concerns continue to drive the cannabis story in Canada,” says Israel in an interview. “But a reporter can also look at how the business aspect affects how people use cannabis.”
Coverage in his recent collection of articles range from educational to hard news to advice columns, with headlines such as “Are recreational cannabis lounges in Canada's future?” and “Legal weed shortages become a blame game.”



The Leaf also looks at the culture of cannabis via its advice column, which can help cannabis users answer questions on whether cannabis makes someone more creative.

Israel says the cold truth of today’s cannabis journalism is that “before legalization, there were many predictions of what might happen, but now we’ve hit the reset button, and everyone is trying to figure out what’s going on with things such as supply shortages. And some companies are less willing to talk to reporters than they were before legalization.”

Many other Canadian journalists have planted their flag into the cannabis sector, such as Vice’s Manisha Krishnan, West Coast freelance writer Amanda Siebert, The Georgia Straight’s Piper Courtenay and The Financial Post’s Vanmala Subramaniam.And earlier this year, The Toronto Star deployed 10 reporters to compile a comprehensive coast-to-coast guide to Canada’s cannabis laws.

In an interview, Subramaniam says she’s drawn to the cannabis space because “it’s such a nascent industry and now we’re really seeing if these licensed producers are robust enough to justify their valuations.”

Who you write for often matters, in terms of securing the quotes needed to flesh out a cannabis story. When Subramaniam covered cannabis during her time at Vice, she didn’t garner the same kind of contacts as she does now working for a Postmedia brand. “I’m getting more Bay St. sources than before, due to the perception of my paper as a credible outlet,” she notes. Her assessment makes sense, considering how cannabis journalism used to be replete with outlets such as High Times, Cannabis Culture and little else.

If Subramaniam could prescribe a solution to some of cannabis journalism’s woes, she’d like to see reporters steering away from writing on every bit of news coming down the press-release pipeline. “Reporters need to ask themselves ‘Why would my audience care about this story right now? Should I really report on this merger between this tiny company and this tiny company?’”

What Israel would like to see discontinued is the overuse of cannabis puns in headlines and sub-heads. “From ‘up in smoke’ to anything associated with the word ‘hazy’, that kind of writing seems to reflect the old idea that anything on cannabis is comedic or fun. But puns really don’t do it for me.”

References:
  1. https://www.theleafnews.com/
  2. http://projects.thestar.com/cannabis-rules-canada/
  3. Via interview conducted Nov. 19, 2018

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