How Cannabis Goes mainstream, with the one and only Cannabitch

Jackie Bryant: JB, Brett Fink: BF

BF: Jackie, thanks for spending the time for our Q&A -- since I started following your writing I feel like I got to know a ton more about what’s going on in the industry but not the person behind the writing. Tell me more about the life of JB and the Cannabitch.

JB: I’m from Long Island, New York, though I have been living in San Diego for the past 6 years. I quit my finance career, which I had always hated, anyway, and moved to San Diego. When I moved out west I started writing for Eater, covering the food scene in San Diego & Baja California. I wanted to report on cannabis but was married to someone that wasn’t a US citizen. It was impossible to do both while sponsoring him for his green card.

In 2017, I started to dip into cannabis and incrementally move into writing it. Now, I write a cannabis newsletter, host a cannabis podcast, and write about it for Forbes. I also work in other various digital and written media outlets: WeedWeek, the San Diego Union-Tribune, Sierra, Healthline, and many others. I just had a piece from my newsletter selected for the Best American Travel Writing 2021 (it’s about the harvest season and wildfires). I am also working on a book.

I love to write about the illicit market and the changes happening in the Emerald triangle, as well as the process of legalization in California. I feel like my responsibility is to write about this period in time, tell people's stories, and this will be a record of what crazy things are happening in cannabis and in the world. Trying to get this stuff into the public record.

BF: Why Cannabis?

JB: I have been smoking since I was 13 very consistently, my dad also is a smoker, it was very normalized for me. My parents preferred that I smoked rather than drink which is not all too common! It is my substance of choice.

I believe that while we should have room to just “be,” our personal choices and values can be political, and we have a duty to live that out in our actions as much as we’re able to. The war on drugs and the excuses that it has given the government to ruin people's lives is a motivator for a lot of the work I do. For me, I am very passionate about getting cannabis legal, I believe it is a force for good, I believe the way that we look at substances is completely backward. There is nothing wrong with loosening up and feeling good, even if that’s all it’s used for, and I hope that my work plays a part in normalizing cannabis use somehow.

BF: Okay what about this book? Why write?

JB: I will say I have a book coming out about cannabis and drug culture, can’t say much more about it yet. I’m just a writer, that’s the beginning and end of it. Writing was always my thing, teachers used to tell my parents that I was gonna be a writer and though I didn’t believe them at first--I did work in finance for a number of years--I finally found my way back. People like my voice, I think it’s conversational and approachable. We need people to tell stories, and journalism is so important for the world. It's just where I feel at home and I feel that this is where I can contribute the most.

BF: What other projects are you working on, what excites you in the space?

There are very promising things coming in the future, I think! I have a lot going on. I will continue to grow Cannabitch. I just started a podcast by the same name. Audio is new for me, but it’s very exciting. I love talking, though it’s harder to organize my thoughts and I get nervous and tongue-tied, sometimes, but I’m working through that and I think the rest comes easy to me. The podcast is a nice personal endeavor.

Besides that, I am working on numerous articles, always, for both local and national media, and trying to get cannabis in mainstream media vs cannabis media. Mainstream is always my main focus - to be in press that is national-in-scope and not just cannabis-centric. I like talking to the mainstream, people who may smoke weed but not be connected to “the culture” at all. I like bringing people in.

BF: What are some of the values or habits in your life that you believe have made you excel in your career?

JB: Shifting from a life that I hated to one that I loved has provided the perspective for everything that I do. I'm completely incapable of not being myself, which can sometimes get me into trouble, but mostly, has been a good thing. What you see is what you get, and I think that is why my writing has caught on--I think people know they’re really getting me, for whatever that’s worth. I am completely disorganized but I am true to myself. I am living my life with that ethos in mind and my work is intended to be an extension of that.

BF: A true New Yorker, upfront and real. Who were your role models? Who are your heroes?

JB: I have a lot of people in my life that are really good journalists and I look to them as models and mentors. I took on writing and journalism a little later in my life--not until I was 29 or 30 did I start. I look to these mentors and friends of mine to guide my ethical journey in this space, especially--I didn’t go to journalism school, but I have taken pains to make sure everything someone would learn there, particularly about ethics and other nuts and bolts, is part of my learning process. All of my journalist friends really helped my work get going and that has been huge for me. Also, my dad is a real creative, entrepreneurial, and smart guy and I am truly proud of him--I look up to him a lot. My heroes have changed a lot over the years depending on what stage of my life I'm in, to be honest. Right now, people striking out on their own and journalists provide my inspiration. Celebrities don't really inspire me or CEOs that I haven't met. People that live authentically and are making “it” based on their own values, that is a huge inspiration to me.

BF: You’re in the know of what’s coming next, so what’s coming next? What’s in store for the future of cannabis.

JB: Cannabis is the wild wild west! I want to say that cannabis isn't going to be a corporate bullshit industry after legalization, but I’m truthfully not sure how that’s going to shake out. I’m naturally skeptical of hardcore capitalists and there are too many people heading up companies in this space that don’t even use cannabis in any way--that’s a problem for me, personally. I'm sure that cannabis will be federally legalized, hopefully soon.

By that point, most states will have passed bills that are “for” big companies and squeeze out the little guys, like has happened in California. And though I support them, I am not super confident that social justice initiatives will be implemented throughout the industry. A lot of it is lip service and so many corporate types can be so divorced from actual users and the culture that they miss the mark when designing these programs.

It's hard to see a world that isn't totally corporatized. There is going to be so much money involved, and I truly hope that they honor and remember where cannabis came from, and the people who worked so hard for it. I hope everyone can share the pot.

BF: Jackie, thanks for sharing your story, I'm honored to have had this moment and time to tell your story, excited to see you do the same. To keep in touch with Jackie you can follow her on Twitter and subscribe to Cannabitch.

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