By MadDog 420
Oregon Cannabis Connection
August 18, 2016 – I recently was asked to read an article at The Weed Blog on marijuana industry writers who use “pseudonyms,” and how that practice should come to an end. I avoid The Weed Blog since Johnny and Jay left, so it took some convincing.
The article, “My Real Name is Chloe Sommers, and I’m A Marijuana Writer,” posted by the new management at The Weed Blog, was written by a new and apparently up-and-coming writer in the marijuana movement, Chloe Sommers, who is a freelance journalist for The Weed Blog, The Marijuana Times, Leafly, and was with CNN for six years. It was just about 320 words, but it conveyed a lot. Enough for a response six times longer. Such is often the folly of “stoner” journalists, as we are more often more verbose than mainstream ones.
Immediately the subtitle jumped out at me. “Say goodbye to pseudonyms, and say hello to accountability,” it reads.
Well, that’s a novel concept for a commodity that can get you up to six months in jail for under an ounce in a bunch of states, and in marijuana hellholes like Kansas, a year for paraphernalia alone, or have your kids removed from your home by a child just mentioning marijuana at school.
My interest was piqued, I must say, so I read on.
“The ‘stoner’ stereotype of cannabis is over, and it’s our responsibility as seasoned journalists, researchers, and politicians to give the plant the seriousness it deserves,” she explains in the very next sentence.
It became apparent, with that single point of view, that the “newest contributor” to The Weed Blog, for all her supposedly awesome “mainstream” credentials, education, and experience, has little understanding of the realities of cannabis, its “activist” journalists, “mainstream” journalism as a whole, and its true role in the American knowledge base and news culture. To say it plainly: It was obvious this short little article was going to be full of crap.
Where does she think the movement has been for the past 20 years? Does she think politicians in her hometown of Washington, D.C., like Rep. Earl Blumenhauer, Sen Gillibrand, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Sen. Booker or Sen. Paul. and others are not taking this seriously? Is the use of a pseudonym by a blogger who manages the vast loads of information for blog readers to become educated and informed not acceptable to Ms. Sommers … even when his job or career may depend on anonymity? If so, as this article clearly conveys, she is in the wrong industry.
When was the last time CNN dove deeply into the realities of an issue the way The Nation, the Detroit Free Press, or even a quality local weekly does? Is CNN or the like really the bar for good journalism? Do you really learn to be a tough go-get-em type journalist working for six years at CNN?
All this running through my head, and I am only through the first sentence…,
Basically, Sommers pontificates on how we writers in the movement aren’t doing a good enough job. To get the “seriousness” marijuana deserves, she thinks it’s time to start “using real names and asking tough questions.”
Her questions, apparently, are ones we “stoner” types must have missed or forgot to ask. I repeat them below and follow them with a response of my own commentary:
“Who and how much money is behind the anti-marijuana lobbying groups?” I guess she has missed the articles and video coverage by marijuana “stoner” “Radical” Russ Belville covering Kevin Sabet and Project SAM. Even her own colleague at Leafly, an excellent marijuana photographer and writer, Sara Dilley, did a great couple of articles on anti-marijuana lobbying groups recently.
“How much longer will the federal government, under the Controlled Substances Act, contradict state-level medical marijuana programs?” I straight up laughed out loud at this ridiculous question. To think that question has not been asked, or maybe just not by the right “journalist,” is absolutely self-righteous! And by god, if she can get to the bottom of that, I will kiss her feet and I am certain she will win a Pulitzer!
“Which cannabis industry leaders are taking it upon themselves to begin self-regulation?” She should be very careful she talks about “industry leaders” and pseudonyms, and being taken seriously. Ms. Sommers, there are famous people, like former NBA star Cliff Robinson (now going by Uncle Spliffy), who have changed their identities JUST to be taken more seriously about their involvement in this industry. Maybe you want to talk with Jorge Cervantes about his plans in California’s market, and you can ask if he plans to market his products as “The George Van Patten Brand”?
“When will the federal government remove barriers to clinical studies?” And again I laughed out loud, but this time with a breathy “oh, my” at the end. Why a journalist, with a masters degree from Syracuse, asking this question as if it has not been done seriously? Do you really think this is a story that has been left neglected? There is some coverage on this from some “stoner” types, and that’s the lightweight stuff. Another Pulitzer awaits you if you can scoop everyone on this one!
“Why won’t legislators allow legal cannabis businesses equal access to banking and tax codes?” Has she heard of Congress? Or the war on marijuana? Republican control? Was she aware that even “pseudonym-ed” writers were covering that … for years! There is no simple or easily defined answer to your question, Ms. Sommers. We have been asking that, and demanding answers, since the first medical cannabis organizations were established 15 or 20 years ago and had their accounts repeatedly closed, ever since.
Apparently, she must think that if you write with a pen name or are a “stoner” type, you are not a serious journalist, and can’t get the answers needed. But, apparently, Ms. Sommers can make a difference with her “mainstream” background. What is so incredible is a supposedly serious journalist that’s going to ask the “tough questions” in the industry has teamed up with America’s number one cannabis grifter, Steven Travis Maurer, and the now disreputable website, The Weed Blog. So much for accountability, pseudonym or not.
The article is obviously directly aimed at the previous owners of The Weed Blog, Johnny Green and Jay Smoker, who made the blog a powerhouse on their own and with pen names the entire time. The two company founders have very legitimate reasons for remaining anonymous, which Ms. Sommers cannot comprehend, possibly due to her recent entry into the long-standing movement of marijuana journalism. With a lot of animosity toward Johnny and Jay coming from Travis Maurer, the new operator of the site, it appears Ms. Sommers was simply a gun-for-hire, albeit unwittingly.
Johnny explained to Oregon Cannabis Connection (OCC):
“Pen names are not new, and with cannabis specifically, were often used out of necessity during prohibition. Hard working activists spoke out and spread awareness despite risking their jobs, their kids, and even sometimes their freedom—depending on the situation—in order to stand up for social justice. Many still use pen names or nicknames for those same reasons to this day. Their efforts are very worthwhile, very much needed, and are very effective. History clearly shows that.
“To take jabs at activists who have been at this far longer than Ms. Sommers, because she is new to the bandwagon and likely hasn’t had to deal with prohibition in the same manner as veteran activists, is incredibly disrespectful. Jorge Cervantes, Subcool, Kyle Kushman, Bobby Black, DJ Short, Danny Danko, NJ Weedman, almost every seed breeder and old school cultivator, and countless others that have contributed to the cannabis community in so many different ways—they are not credible because they use a pen name or nickname? Their contributions are no longer needed and/or don’t count?
“I tip my hat to activists that used their true names during prohibition. That wasn’t an option for me, but I didn’t think it mattered, anyway. It still doesn’t matter, in my opinion. I have always believed that the message should be bigger than the messenger, and so whether it’s a real name, pen name, no name—that should be ancillary at best. Ms. Sommers can disagree all she wants, as can her employer, Steven Travis Maurer.”
Another longtime activist-writer who was in the closet and wrote as Miggy420 for six years before coming out is Miguel Jorge Santiago Mulholland, or Miggy as he is now known to friends. He wrote for The Weed Blog, and has contributed to sativaonlinemagazine.com, The Human Solution, The Northwest Leaf and other outlets. He explained to the OCC:
“I think it’s reckless to think people using a nom de plume are the lesser of a reporter for it, in fact it’s a reporter’s duty to reveal the truth with no consequences, I mean, why else does the reporter have the right to protect their sources, why not themselves?
“One of the definitions of journalism is ‘writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation’ and this is something I’ve been doing as Miggy420 for two reasons: 1) To help spread the truth about people who consume marijuana, and 2) to maintain a 9-to-5 job as I helped spread the truth, because my family needs to eat.
“I could not maintain a Department of Defense job writing under my real name, which wouldn’t allow me to prove the point: that potheads are functional people who are your friends, families, and neighbors.
“I take pride over the reputation I have garnered as Miggy420 and will continue to use it simply because it is a statement about the condition of marijuana in America. Until all prisoners are free, children aren’t taken from homes, and jobs cannot be hurt by using your real name, pseudonyms are a quintessential part of the marijuana culture in America. Hell, even the world! Take Charlo Greene for example. She’s always had a plan, and she was born as Charlo Egbe … but who am I but a stupid pothead.”
I reached out to my friend and fellow writer Steve Elliott of Toke Signals, Northwest Leaf magazines (including Oregon Leaf and Alaska Leaf), and author of The Little Black Book of Marijuana. He is a longtime writer in the marijuana movement and we got his take on the factually lightweight, but ridicule-filled article.
“I have worked under my own name during my entire journalism career, including the eight years I’ve specialized in cannabis reportage, but I don’t feel any particular need to be ‘legitimized’ by late-comers to the industry,” Elliott explained to OCC.
As to the need for “mainstream” media in the cannabis movement, Elliott explained, “They have their role to play. But I’d no longer depend on a mainstream journalist for in depth cannabis information than I’d depend on a baseball reporter to enlighten me about astronomy.”
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