Globe all in on pot

Paper dedicates real estate, resources to state’s newest industry

IT’S A SMALL THING that few would initially notice but it says something loud.

On the Boston Globe’s home page, just below the paper’s logo, is a list of categories like most news sites have to direct readers to sections of interest. There, among Metro, Sports, and Politics, wedged between Lifestyle and Arts, is the newest focus – Marijuana.

The dedication of a category to the nascent industry says New England’s highest profile media outlet is taking the expected billion-dollar marijuana business seriously and is all in.

For sure, the Globe is not the only one covering the emerging cannabis industry. Outlets such as Boston Business Journal, WBUR, Mass Live, The Dig, and State House News Service, as well as us here at CommonWealth, are at nearly every meeting of the state Cannabis Control Commission. And there are plenty of stories about soon-to-be open retail stores and interviews with principals in those endeavors.

But the Globe has turned its coverage up to high. The paper has reporter Dan Adams, who combines the zeal of an advocate with his blanket coverage, dedicated to the beat. They are also looking to hire a second reporter for the beat.

Adams has a weekly newsletter, This Week in Weed, that goes out every Saturday wrapping up local and national coverage of marijuana issues and has now become a staple in the paper and on the home page. The name of the newsletter, using the slang for the herb, is somewhat counter to how the Globe has been covering the industry.

Early on, just after voters first passed the referendum in 2016, the Globe had one of its reporters hit the streets in search of pot now that it was legal. It was a droll approach that runs counter to the treatment of the industry today. In addition to the macro Marijuana category, the paper runs a national column called “Marijuana Moment,” which is a summary of weekly stories around the country by legalization advocate Tom Angell. The Globe runs a disclaimer with the column that “the views expressed by Angell or Marijuana Moment are neither endorsed by the Globe nor do they reflect the Globe’s views on any subject area.” But given the paper’s approach, you’d be hard-pressed to see the difference.

The recent coverage reflects the seriousness with which advocates bring to the issue and its potential for millions in revenues to the state coffers and millions more to the economy. It’s not an approach shared by all, though. The Boston Herald often takes a decidedly tabloid approach, with Friday’s front page a case in point. “As legal pot sales loom, feds tell Bay State… DON’T DRIVE ‘BAKED.’”

It was a piece that quoted a high-ranking federal transportation official who warned about the dangers of drugged driving. But her quote of “Friends don’t let friends drive baked,” was tabloid gold and reflects a longstanding perception of marijuana use aptly summed up in words like “baked” and “stoned.”

The Herald has been doing stories on legal marijuana but much of the coverage has been on the fallout of use, such as studies showing an increase in accidents in states that have legalized marijuana, the lack of a scientific test to show marijuana impairment while driving, and the potential increase in insurance rates.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

But as the state’s first retail store is set to open in either Leicester or Northampton – or both – within days, the Globe has launched all ships. The Globe sent out a reporter and photographer to Leicester for a story in Friday’s paper to talk with public safety officials, business people, and residents about the impending launch of a retail store by Cultivate, a medical marijuana dispensary on Route 9. It was just one week after another reporter and photographer went into Cultivate and did a photo shoot and short story about the state’s expected first legal retail outlet. Adams also had a Q&A for those who may not know how to buy marijuana but are interested. They are clearly trying to cultivate an audience.

But the coverage may be ahead of its readership. Just before the election, the paper launched a feature where it said, “Each week on our marijuana page, we’ll feature a question facing readers and marijuana consumers in their community.” The first installment asked readers to weigh in on how important a candidate’s position on marijuana is in deciding to cast their vote. The piece had three responses. The Globe has not run another question yet.