Becoming an insider is simple. You just dive in. Here’s how.
Declaring oneself an expert is an invitation to be humbled — always, always will there be someone more learned than yourself; and if that’s not true today, just sit back and watch as you’re overtaken tomorrow — but yeah, okay, I admit it: I know a thing or two about weed.
I write about marijuana. This is how I pay my bills, and have for many years now. It’s all true.
The main reason I am able to do this is that I read about cannabis, incessantly — and I recognize those around me whose knowledge is broader, deeper, or (gasp) both.
Thing is, you can do this, too. All of it. Anyone can, which is the beautiful, wonderful, and ultimately humbling thing about trading in knowledge. It is not magic. Nor is it the result of an accident of birth. Becoming an “expert” or “insider” comes from immersion. To do that, all you need is to dive in. Here’s how I’d suggest you begin.
How does your day begin? Mine starts with Google alerts. (It also ends that way, with some alerts in between, but you get the idea.) I have a few cannabis-related alerts that I’ve tailored to make sure I don’t miss something obscure from overseas for want of a difference in terms. Medical marijuana, regular-old marijuana, marijuana legalization, cannabis, medical cannabis… we’ve got them all. But because that’s not good enough, I’m also a newsletter subscriber. By far the gold standard is journalist Tom Angell’s Marijuana Moment, a once-daily compendium of the day’s cannabis-related headlines. (And since he’s New York-based and I’m West Coast, he is forever three hours and an age ahead.) If you are in this racket, or you want to sound like you are, it is indispensable. (A necessary if obvious aside: Follow him on Twitter. Now.)
Since it’s good to honor your influences, and since my therapist would probably encourage me to be upfront about other journalists I envy, I would encourage you to follow the work of Rolling Stone columnist and GQ contributor Amanda Chicago Lewis.
Another solid email newsletter is WeedWeek, and since it arrives but twice a fortnight, every Saturday morning, it can be good for perspective’s sake to see what news was still fit to print once the ink (digital or otherwise) had a chance to dry. And of all the daily news sources there are — and there are many — the one I never fail to visit at least twice a day (morning and night) is Marijuana Business Daily, the gold-standard for market happenings.
Between these three and some web alerts plus whatever you have in your Feedly feed, you’ll be covered for day-to-day news aggregation.
Modern-day Cartesian logic dictates that you never truly exist until you have a podcast. (This is tragic, for it means that I, myself, am an ethereal being.) The beauty of podcasts, beyond their allowance for total passive consumption, is the depth with which a subject can be treated. Leafly News (where, disclosure, I am a contributor) has a weekly podcast that summarizes the news and also selects the outrage or development of the week for more in-depth treatment. I recognize nobody can listen to wonky nerds wonk-nerd out forever, so I turn to comedian Doug Benson’s interview-show-cast (available on various channels, including YouTube) as a refreshing palate-cleanser. Already a go-to news site for generalists, the Cannabist’s High Minded podcast is worthy for its depth and focus, but it hasn’t been updated in a while. Get on it, folks.
Read, but more.
Who was it that said those who didn’t know their history is doomed to repeat it? Nobody knows, unless they read books, and lots of them. Here are some cannabis-related books you should read, if you want to pretend you know anything about it — like how, exactly, did our society go from advertising marijuana confections in newspapers and having cannabis-derived tinctures on our pharmacy shelves, to none of the above, and then most of the above again? I didn’t have much of a clue until I read journalist Martin Lee’s Smoke Signals, for my money (and yours) the definitive social history of the drug. (Lee’s Project CBD is also a fine resource for anyone curious about the medical side of cannabis.) For a handy and soon-to-be well-thumbed guide to cannabinoids, the components of the plant, how they work and how they interact with the human body, the standard is researcher Michael Backes’s Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana. Released late last year, Emily Dufton’s Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall of Marijuana in America grants perspective by zeroing in on how legalization was undone a generation ago.
Now you can watch things.
There’s nothing like the medium of film for indoctrination. But I mean the good kind! CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta’s “Weed” series (see below) probably did more than any other media in the past few years to evangelize for medical cannabis. It’s not an accident that red states starting legalizing cannabis oil after Gupta publicized the plight of childhood epilepsy sufferers. I defy you to deny cannabis is medicine after giving it an honest watch. You could argue Gupta didn’t go far enough, especially when the less-slick but more in-depth “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer” had been available since 2010. You might think it’s dated, and California’s Emerald Triangle most certainly gets the Hollywood treatment, but the over-dramatized Humboldt County does a decent job of explaining the rural marijuana-grower’s ethos, a mindset that lives today. And since it’s valuable to get a perspective outside of the US, Grassroots (something about that title) shows how much further other countries have to go towards the reality we enjoy today. Bonus for all the footage of Proposition 215 author and inspiration Dennis Peron. (Honorable mention: Rolling Papers, the 2015 documentary that followed the Denver Post’s marijuana editor “to see” if weed was a legitimate news subject.)