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On to “greener” pastures

Howdy folks!

Well, after nearly 20 years in journalism, I’ve decided to move on to the next stage of my life and join the legal cannabis industry.

It wasn’t an easy decision, leaving a career I’ve loved, but an opportunity came along that I just couldn’t refuse.

I’ve been endlessly fascinated by legalization and the crazy mess that comes with creating a new industry that never before existed. Marijuana issues straddle just about every beat I’ve covered, and every beat in the newsroom – including science, business, politics, health, education and cops.

But it’s more than that.

We’re witnessing history. Marijuana legalization is spreading across the country, and with it comes changing attitudes and cultural transformation.

(Me at CannaMan Farms in Vancouver, early 2014 before the first stores opened)
(Me at CannaMan Farms in Vancouver, early 2014 before the first stores opened)

In some ways this new market seems like a pristine landscape that we can build into our best vision of what an industry can be. There’s no class distinction here yet, no glass ceiling for women. We can create a new world out of this mostly black space by filling it with our best ideals.

But in other ways there’s great potential for disaster, with medical marijuana patients legitimately concerned that the system they rely on – here and in other legalization states – may vanish or transform into something that’s much harder for them to navigate. And on the flip side there are also concerns about what the shift to legalization means for young people. We need a way to educate kids about what legalization is, and why it’s important for them to wait until their 21 or older before trying marijuana (the short answer – it can alter the way a young brain develops into maturity).

It’s also an industry surrounded by stigma and misinformation, bad federal policies based on political bias rather than on scientific fact, a lack of consumer education and a host of rules that often just plain don’t make sense. There is a tremendous need for real, accurate and verifiable evidence and education on all aspects of the plant. And there’s a tremendous need for serious medical research even in the face of a federal ban that makes it extremely difficult to do that research.

I’ve often likened the marijuana revolution to the launch of the microbrew industry. It’s full of creative, innovative people with so many ideas and so much passion. Watching new products and new business models spring to life is intriguing and marvelously fun to watch.

So where am I going? I’m going to be the new social media and web development manager for Main Street Marijuana, here in Vancouver – but what we’re planning will span far beyond a single store.

Together with others in the industry, we’re working on creating the first hempfest in Esther Short Park this September. We plan to build a new and separate educational site for consumers working with other stores and industry experts in our region. If we do it right, we hope it will be a resource for people across the nation looking for an introduction – or reintroduction – to marijuana, and to how marijuana has changed over the last few decades with new strains and new products.

And there’s even more to come.

We want to build a strong marijuana community in our region, not based on stigma but on real information. And we’re going to have a lot of fun doing it.

What will happen to Cannabis Chronicles? Justin Runquist, my fellow reporter at The Columbian – who’s done quite a bit of great work covering marijuana himself – will be taking over central control of the site. I’ve also offered The Columbian free permission to repost items from my new personal blog about the industry,

Whether the paper decides to use those posts or not, I also hope to continue to provide guest posts to Cannabis Chronicles periodically. And I have a lot of confidence in Justin and his ability to cover this industry well and in an unbiased manner.

Over the weekend I wrote the first post on my new blog, with more details about why I’m making the switch. That post is here: Why I’m joining the revolution.

I’ll greatly miss all the amazingly talented people I’ve worked with at The Columbian and at all the other publications I’ve worked at. But the opportunity to build a new culture and community is just too interesting to turn down.

I’ve also really enjoyed talking to people through this blog and out in our area about all aspects of the industry. I hope we’ll be able to continue those conversations as I take on my new position.

My last day here is Friday, and I begin my new career next month. (But don’t worry, we’ll keep those Friday Deals posts coming!)

Thank you all so much for the opportunity to share and interact. It’s been a joy and an honor, truly.

-SueVo (