Media learn to cover marijuana culture


Marijuana, long considered a shameful indulgence reserved for teenagers and overgrown slackers, is going through a profound re-branding process in Colorado. Smokers, rather than being hidden in smoky, black lit basements, are experiencing new life as weed culture becomes the new, trendy frontier in food, fashion and fun.

In the food realm, rumors of secret tasting menus laced with different types of marijuana have set much of the foodie set into a frenzy, with many trying to get invited to back door dinner parties at some of Denver and Boulder’s restaurants, both fine and common.

Similarly, hemp fashion is making its way back in nearly everyone’s wardrobe. Some items are hyper-cool like the woven, Moroccan inspired belts found in the windows of Pearl Street boutiques while others, like t-shirts, are so basic and innocuous, it’s hard to believe they found their origin in a drug.

The easy transition from illegal marijuana to legal recreational marijuana owes a surprising amount of credit to the work of journalists and opinion writers in Colorado and beyond. From High Times in the 1970s to the New York Times editorial board now, the news media have been vocal with their opinions on legalization.

On Oct. 1 the Denver Post closed the application for a weed-based sex and intimacy columnist for The Cannabist, the Denver Post’s marijuana themed site. This push by a mainstream media outlet to incorporate a subculture with a long history is more evidence of journalism’s power. It’s simple to argue that the establishment of The Cannabist will likely inform and educate a demographic previously untouched by the marijuana debate and even soothe those who were staunchly opposed to any and all legalization.

The discussion bears mention simply because of journalism’s power to spin counter and sub cultures into the mainstream. When Rolling Stone’s first issue hit the stands in 1964, its mission was deeply entrenched in the hippie counterculture but every story was written using traditional journalistic principles. Currently, despite its against the tide origins, Rolling Stone has become the most mainstream magazine for both music and political commentary.

It’s the inverse of the relationship between news and social media. Rather than reporters pulling hot topics from the people, the people pull the things they want to talk about from the new. It’s proof that journalism can still propel discussion on its own.