Magazines Emerge To Cover 'Cannabis Culture,' With A New England Twist

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A marijuana plant. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A marijuana plant. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The magazine High Times has been going strong since 1974, when it would have been hard to imagine the current swing toward marijuana legalization.

Now there's an enormous amount of cannabis information online, and even specific apps to locate pot shops. But there’s also a new crop of old-fashioned print publications, including some based in New England.

One such publication addresses cannabis tourism, which for years has been big business out west and is gaining steam in New England, where drivers can easily cross three state lines in under 90 minutes.

Kathryn Blume, editor of The New England Cannabis Guide, is well aware of that.

“We're trying to think about it from a regional perspective, because all these states are small,” Blume said. “They're going to have different regulations, and what's true in Massachusetts is going to be very different in, say, New Hampshire.”

The annual guide is priced, appropriately, at $4.20.

Ten thousand copies were just printed, and readers will find profiles of New England states and their legalization history along with feature articles.

"The New England Cannabis Guide" will be printed annually. (Courtesy Heady Vermont)
The New England Cannabis Guide will be printed annually. (Courtesy Heady Vermont)

"We've got a centerpiece titled 'Road Trippin' in New England,'" Blume said. "It’s a little travelogue [about] what you might find in each of the states."

It reads like an invite to "come for the cannabis, stay for the Dr. Seuss Museum." The guide also suggests a head shop in Providence, and Rhode Island’s beaches, among other destinations.

Only a few recreational dispensaries and CBD retailers are listed in the first issue. Most of them are paid advertisers.

Blume said the company does need to break even on the guide. But with an industry growing so rapidly, why even publish something just once a year when it's bound to become outdated pretty fast?

“Well, we haven't seen anybody else doing it yet, and we want to believe that this particular rising tide is going to float a lot of boats,” Blume said.

It may be worth the risk as the guide could better position its publisher, Heady Vermont — which describes itself online as "Vermont's source for cannabis advocacy, events and news."

While Vermont doesn't yet have recreational marijuana shops, Massachusetts does.

In Northampton, Michael Kusek said he's documenting the state's cannabis experience as it evolves for readers who are 45 years and up.

“Legalized cannabis is really a West Coast phenomenon,” said Kusek, editor and publisher of Different Leaf. “I think there's an East Coast perspective that is going to develop over time on this industry, and there are going to be East Coast stories.”

The table of contents from the Summer 2019 issue of "Different Leaf." It's a magazine about "cannabis culture," published in Northampton, Massachusetts. (Courtesy Different Leaf)
The table of contents from the Summer 2019 issue of Different Leaf. It's a magazine about cannabis culture, published in Northampton, Massachusetts. (Courtesy Different Leaf)

Among the stories in the first issue is a profile of a marijuana activist who is deaf trying to make sure dispensaries in Massachusetts are ADA compliant. Another feature, about women in the cannabis industry — from state regulators to business owners — includes a two-page photo Kusek describes as their Vanity Fair spread.

Different Leaf bills itself as "a journal of cannabis culture," so there are also recipes for cannabis ice cream and stories about stylish new smoking accessories. But Kusek said he is mindful how Massachusetts got to this point in history.

"There are still people in jail for cannabis," he said. "There are still people around this country who are going to jail for cannabis."

The magazine will be published quarterly and a first issue came out earlier this summer.

Kusek said he and writers did a lot of research into what was already on newsstands when they first conceived of the magazine. At one point, Kusek saw an article in a fashion magazine about legalized cannabis and yoga.

"It ran with [a photo of] an impossibly beautiful blonde woman in a yoga pose," he said, "and it got savaged on Twitter, and particularly on Black Twitter."

For good reason, Kusek added. The article existed outside a broader conversation about cannabis laws and race. That’s why in his first issue, he included an article on the "whiteness" so far of dispensary license-holders in Massachusetts.

Different Leaf could expand over time, Kusek said. Potentially there’s a magazine for middle-agers in other states that legalize recreational cannabis.

The biggest challenge right now is keeping up with how fast everything is changing, he said, adding that print is a slow medium and that could be a plus. Unlike when you search "marijuana" online, magazines don’t collect your data.

This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative  and was originally published by New England Public Radio

This segment aired on August 27, 2019.



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