Are the publishers high? Why trendy potty news is a bad idea

The legalization of marijuana in multiple states has sparked a whole new genre of mainstream media reporting: an in-depth exploration of all the fun things readers can do while high.

Apparently, the concept of “family diary” has changed.

Many major regional news outlets in the 18 states where marijuana is fully legalized are now filled with optimistic lifestyle articles extolling the virtues of a once underground cannabis culture. Reviews of retail stores, special smokers’ lounges, and “cutting edge” dinner recipes can be found in the “Entertainment” and “Food” sections of newspapers.

A major California newspaper recently offered advice on how to take advantage Disneyland at the top; the Space Mountain roller coaster was particularly popular. In the North West, a mainstream media outlet suggested glow in the dark mini golf was much better after pot ingestion. In Colorado, a special online section of a newspaper called “The Cannabist” offered ways to “infuse cannabis” in Thanksgiving recipes. One of the largest news agencies in the Midwest notice published on “how to host a marijuana dinner party with tips on dosage, ambiance, and avoiding a buzz kill.”

On some level, there’s nothing wrong with any of this, I suppose. These activities are no longer against the law in these states. And legalization, one might say, contains substantial social benefits. The drive to decriminalize cannabis was fueled by a compelling and undeniable fact: far too many people were flooding jails and jails for often minor marijuana-related charges or convictions. A strong argument can be made that, on the whole, our society is better off without these pot restrictions.

But the rush to right that wrong has led to a whole new list of potential problems. Basically, scientific research and law enforcement practices have not had time to catch up with the new legalized reality; the effects of this are now seen every day.

The police use a standard blood alcohol measurement to judge on the spot whether or not someone is driving while intoxicated. With marijuana, trying to make a similar assessment presents police and courts with a gray area at best. In fact, the websites of law firms specializing in impaired driving arrests – which are now enjoying an influx of new non-alcohol-related clients – carefully explain how those blurry lines may offer a way out. legal troubles.

And there is more gray in addition. Most states have imposed strict regulations on cannabis dispensaries. As a result, the illegal, unregulated pot trade continues to thrive. According to a report, 80-90% of marijuana sales in California fall into a “legal gray area.” The state legislature itself authorized a $100 million plan last year to support “struggling” sanctioned cannabis companies.

This means that many pot products often do not follow any type of manufacturing standard. A to study Denver-area emergency rooms showed candy-like “edible” marijuana products “caused a disproportionate number of pot-related medical crises.” To research by the University of Michigan reported that vaping cannabis with e-cigarette devices is often more dangerous than vaping tobacco.

Hard news reporters write about all of this, of course. Troubling issues are not ignored. And news stories almost always contain warnings about driving or operating complex machinery under the influence. But that doesn’t erase the questions raised by the cheerful, friendly coverage that many news outlets now devote to marijuana.

Few media outlets would publish an article recommending things to do while intoxicated.

Although the features sections often highlight trendy cocktail recipes and bars, readers are unlikely to find any tips on how Disneyland is more fun after a couple of whiskey sours. It would also be hard to find a mainstream newspaper’s guide to places in town where you could happily smoke a few packs of cigarettes.

This makes the marijuana push more than a little hopeless. News outlets are often frantic to reach younger audiences. Their critics, critics, and lifestyle writers should be considered hip, with their fingers firmly placed on the sharpest pulse of popular culture.

Media coverage of cannabis culture is part of this frantic drive to be seen as “relevant” by a particular demographic. But that comes at the cost of appearing irresponsible, given how much is known and, more importantly, unknown about pot drinking.

Again, the legalization of marijuana has important positive aspects, particularly in the area of ​​criminal justice. But that doesn’t make pot another common consumer product that helps someone get through the day, like coffee or a chocolate bar.

With the right to legally consume cannabis comes responsibilities. Not just for consumers, but also for news outlets.

Joe Ferullo is an award-winning media executive, producer and journalist and former Executive Vice President of Programming for CBS Television Distribution. He was news director for NBC, writer-producer for “Dateline NBC” and worked for ABC News. Follow him on Twitter @ironworker1.

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