February 24, 2017 Last Updated 8:52 am

Good times for High Times could end if Trump’s AG has his way; Wisconsin newspapers urge saving state magazine

Morning Brief: Union decries Evening Standard plans to cut staff hours, ‘management must be living in cloud cuckooland to say that editorial excellence will not be affected’

Thursday was like other days in the Trump era, lots of news, lots of controversy. Between the rescinding of transgender protections, and the rescinding of Obama’s executive order on the use of private prisons by the Feds, Sean Spicer’s little bombshell that the government might go after states that have legalized or decriminalized recreational marijuana use may go unnoticed.

Photo: Cannabis Culture by Danny Kresnyak used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

But one had to think that if Spicer was not just blowing smoke, this will end up a far bigger story than the press it is getting today. For one thing, the Trump administration, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is going against the grain. On the same night that Trump won his stunning victory, voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada approved recreational marijuana initiatives, joining Colorado and Washington. An initiative in Arizona barely lost with only 52 percent of voters voting No.

Additionally, the passage of these initiatives has sparked a booming new industry, and with it the renaissance of its flagship magazine, High Times. In fact, if there is one segment of the magazine industry that is thriving right now, it is the segment covering cannabis. That may end if Jeff Sessions has anything to do with it.

Politico called it back in December, warning readers that Sessions was no friend to marijuana legalization proponents:

As a U.S. Attorney in Alabama in the 1980s, Sessions said he thought the KKK “were OK until I found out they smoked pot.” In April, he said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and that it was a “very real danger” that is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” Sessions, who turns 70 on Christmas Eve, has called marijuana reform a “tragic mistake” and criticized FBI Director James Comey and Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch for not vigorously enforcing a the federal prohibition that President Obama has called “untenable over the long term.” In a floor speech earlier this year, Senator Sessions said: “You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink… It is different….It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”

Critics of the new administration may see a pattern here, what with aggressive enforcement of immigration and drug lays, combined with government approval of private Federal prisons.

USA Today. Trevor Hughes (beware of auto-play video):

Cannabis industry roiled by White House comments on enforcement

The White House threw the country’s marijuana industry into a panic after announcing Thursday that there would likely be “greater enforcement” of federal anti-cannabis laws under President Trump.

Speaking to reporters, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the Trump administration would not use federal laws against medical marijuana users, in part because Congress has already banned it from doing so. But he made a distinction between medical and recreational use and said: “I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement” of federal laws against recreational marijuana use…

…Spicer signaled a potentially major shift in enforcement: “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.” He did not provide a timeline or any specifics about how a crackdown could occur. Every state-level marijuana marketplace has been operated illegally, as far as the federal law is concerned, but Justice Department prosecutors have largely left them alone.

The Mercury News, Lisa M. Krieger:

High Times magazine moves west to California

“California is a hotbed of a place where all these creative, interesting and incredible people are coming together to advance the cannabis marketplace,” he said.

Founded in 1974, High Times is a counterculture survivor, with growing tips, music reviews and centerfolds of glittering green buds to decorate the walls of college dorms. Contributors have included such storied writers as Truman Capote, Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson.

Now the publishing industry has grown competitive, awash with new magazines like Cannabis Venture, Cannabis Now, Cannabis Culture, DOPE magazine, 420 Times, Marijuana Business Daily, and THC magazine (“for the cannabis connoisseur”)….

…“California has everything — lighting technologies, grow technologies, better storage techniques, new ways to vaporize, microdoses of edibles, cannabis tourism,” said Stang. “You have all these incredible new investors coming on line, pouring their knowledge, time, effort and money into growing this.”

…Published by a privately held corporation, High Times does not disclose circulation or revenue, but it says business has benefited from the end of prohibition. Over the past three years, Stang said, its online traffic has increased by “high double digits” and the print publication has climbed from 112 to 160 pages in size.

Last week TNM reported on the move by Republican governor Scott Walker to shutter the state magazine Wisconsin Natural Resources. Walker is a climate change denier and supporter of business over the environment. But the administration is claiming that the move is not about politics but about cutting state costs, this despite the fact that the magazine is reader supported.

Newspapers in the state have come to the defense of the magazine, the latest being The Journal Times of Madison, the state capitol.

The Journal Times, editorial:

Let the DNR’s magazine continue

Three Wisconsin-based magazines that cover outdoor recreation told the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday that they don’t feel undercut by competition from the DNR magazine, and said they said didn’t ask Walker to eliminate it.

Walker’s budget proposal calls for shutting down the magazine to eliminate duplication of privately owned publications, and not as part of an anti-science agenda, spokesman Tom Evenson said last week.

The governor’s office hasn’t specified which publications are being duplicated or who, if anyone, has asked the governor to shutter the DNR’s 88,000-subscriber magazine, which — and here’s the interesting part from a “stop wasteful spending” government perspective — operates without tax revenue.

Operators of the three magazines contacted by the Wisconsin State Journal said their publications were very different in scope from the DNR magazine, which features articles spanning conservation issues, hunting and fishing, and state recreational offerings.

“I get the magazine and I enjoy it,” said Dick Ellis, owner and publisher of On Wisconsin Outdoors, which focuses on hunting and fishing. “I don’t think they are competition for us.”

I said earlier this week that it used to be common for me to receive calls from UK publishers wondering what was going on in the US with layoffs and other changes, while saying that they simply weren’t seeing the same things locally. Well, not any longer.

National Union of Journalists:

Evening Standard plans to cut staff hours by half a “huge blow”

The NUJ has criticised the Evening Standard for moving to a one-edition a day print publication, cutting sub-editors work and pay by half and putting reporters on a four-day week.

More than 30 members of staff look to be affected by the changes, however the final figure is not clear. All reporters and full-time sports sub-editors have received letters asking if they would to change to a four-day week…

…Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “This is a huge blow to the loyal staff on the Standard who must take credit for this profitable newspaper’s recent success. It will also have a huge impact on the coverage of news for its readers; the management must be living in cloud cuckooland to say that editorial excellence will not be affected.

“They have made a mockery of any meaningful consultation. The one-edition only newspaper is already on the streets as staff wait to hear their fate.

“The editor Sarah Sands may have a new safe berth at Radio 4’s Today programme, but how are her staff expected to survive on half their pay? It is a travesty that one of the greatest capitals of the world cannot enjoy a rich, vibrant and varied press.”

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