On April 17, local journalist and former longstanding Express cannabis columnist David Downs appeared in The New York Times — not as a contributor, but as an interview subject. He was featured in the day’s “California Today“ section, answering questions about his plans as the San Francisco Chronicle’s first cannabis editor. Downs was appointed after years of covering marijuana in the Bay Area, including for this media company; this column you’re reading hopes to live up to the standards left behind by his Legalization Nation blog.
Right now, Downs is getting ready to launch an S.F. Chron site that will exclusively cover local and national cannabis news. (Full disclosure: I’m a contributor.) It’ll have plenty of Bay Area competition: SF Weekly has its “Evergreen” insert. The East Bay Times is just one of 25 newsrooms that’s working on “The Cannifornian,” which is providing comprehensive coverage of cannabis issues across the state. Cannabis Now, a bi-monthly magazine and news site, is taking on the likes of High Times from its downtown Berkeley office. (Full disclosure: I’m a contributor.) Smell the Truth, a marijuana blog hosted by SFGate is still going strong. And then there’s this column, just one component of the Express’ regular efforts to cover local marijuana, including its annual 4/20 issue earlier this month.
I first met Downs when I profiled him for a grad school project. It was early 2014, and The Denver Post had just appointed its first cannabis editor, Ricardo Baca. I wanted to do a story on the growing field of cannabis journalism, and Downs was kind enough to let me tag along on a typical day on the job. Back then, he was hustling as a freelancer, writing about weed for everyone from Rolling Stone to WIRED, in addition to his collection of steady local gigs. Now, he’s living the cannabis dream. We should all be so lucky.
And as cannabis media in the Bay Area continues to grow, maybe one day the rest of us freelancers will be …