Meet the Media Covering Cannabis in Metro Detroit

Michigan is among the United States’ most mature cannabis markets, having been just the 13th state to legalize the plant for therapeutic use in 2008 and making recreational use legal in 2019.

Since then, the state has raked in millions in recreational sales each month as more and more operators come online and grow. However, some stigmas still remain as the plant remains illegal at the federal level.

Michigan media outlets have grappled and experimented with how to tell the stories of Michigan’s burgeoning cannabis industry as sales have climbed – and with them, mainstream appeal.

We were honored to host some great panelists on this exciting topic in May including:

Send pitches re: cannabis to [email protected]

Beginnings

  • Lee spoke to the long running coverage on cannabis at the Detroit Metro Times from Hash Bash and initial legalization rumors to the full recreational industry emergence in Michigan.
  • Al discussed how Deena Centofanti (health reporter) was the sole FOX2 reporter on cannabis to begin with, to discuss health impacts cannabis offers. And how that has now shifted to broader storytelling from grown manufacturers to legalization and more.
  • Gus talked about how MLive carved out a cannabis beat several years ago to cover hemp, cannabis and overall lifecycle of the industry.

On the Horizon

  • Lee said Detroit has been slow to adapt recreational facilities because they want to address racial disparity and industry participation. He thinks social equity will continue to be a key topic in the media in the near term.
  • Gus added that the personal stories of business owners and their connections to the city as it relates to the cannabis industry is the key to the future of media storytelling.
  • Al agreed that focusing on storytelling of individuals and small businesses is the most compelling for FOX2.

Al also made an important point about cannabis stories needing to be told by reporters that are comfortable with the subject matter. If a reporter is more conservative and newer to the topic of cannabis then the story won’t be covered authentically.

Audience Feedback

  • Gus said that feedback regarding cannabis stories across readers has been generally positive. He suspects that live events, THC beverages and more will continue to be of interest to Michiganders.
  • Lee indicated that Detroit Metro Times readers were generally supportive of the legalization of cannabis and continue to have interest in its evolution. He said that the humanization of the industry and the de-stigmatization will continue to be an important topic.
    • He also talked about a recent “pot for shot” campaign regarding the COVID-19 vaccine that was super successful and positive for cannabis storytelling.
  • Al, the self-described “gatekeeper” (of storytelling) at FOX2, said he really wants to tell some Detroit success stories because he wants the station to remain at the forefront of this topic. He added, “As viewers become more comfortable about the topic of cannabis, then reporters and newsrooms will become more comfortable covering it.”

All panelists discussed the need for historical research about the industry in order to report on cannabis comprehensively. These topics span racial oppression, prohibition and more, in order to have successful cannabis stories.

The group also talked about trends and statistics that intrigue them such as:

  • Where cannabis tax money is going and if it’s aligning with state projections
  • How cannabis is being distributed throughout the state
  • What the state’s spending on oversight of the industry
  • How the industry is benefiting the state and its communities
  • How are innovations for cannabis breathalyzers evolving
  • Are there additional events and festivals cropping up

Final tip from the group: don’t make cannabis pitches fluffy – tell the story like it is!

Thank you for joining us for this important event! And many thanks to our fantastic moderators from sponsor, Identity: Andrea Trapani and Jordan Walker.

Megan Bonelli (formerly Peterson) is a Detroit PRSA board member.