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Cannabis has evolved into a beat of its own in the world of journalism, providing the industry with publications dedicated to product innovations, business strategies, and growth. Jen Bernstein is a pioneer in the cannabis media space, having served as former managing editor and now a contributing writer at High Times, one of the first industry magazines.
In a career spanning two decades and combining her love for the plant with her love of writing, Bernstein has played a critical role in bringing cannabis into the mainstream.
Keep reading to get Jen’s take on cannabis media, women in the industry, and other recent developments.
Q: How did you become a cannabis expert, and how have you been able to translate that expertise into a writing career?
A: To become a cannabis expert, you have to practice a lot, just like anything. I’ve judged more than 25 Cannabis Cups in the US, plus some internationally, all of which led to my love and appreciation of this glorious plant. Combine that with a masters in writing from NYU, and I landed my dream job at High Times Magazine.
I love writing about cannabis and the culture because there is always a new surprise about the plant. There is so much to learn, study, and research; it never gets boring. As a journalist, when you land upon a beat like cannabis, it becomes both a passion and a livelihood.
Q: Why is it essential for the cannabis industry to have devoted outlets to share ideas and track progress and growth?
A: It’s crucial to have outlets in print and digital media explicitly dedicated to cannabis. It has already legitimized the industry and allowed those of us who are a part of it to be taken more seriously than in the past. We as journalists need to get the correct messages out there, and these outlets allow us to do that. We are making so much progress, but there is still a lot of stigma surrounding the mystery of this plant. The more we can demystify it, the more people can learn and discover what it’s really about. It’s also especially important to have thought leadership when it comes to medicinal use. Because cannabis has health benefits, there is a need to share medical cannabis research and provide accurate information to those who need it most.
Q: What are some of the most important conversations going on in cannabis media right now?
A: The most important conversation right now is the road to federal legalization. What does it look like, and what do we focus on first? Should it be rescheduling, finances, or is it just legitimizing businesses and allowing them to thrive?
One of the other most important topics is social equity. Minorities must be given the proper support and help to enter the industry. We must also address those that have been incarcerated because of cannabis. Great organizations like the Last Prisoner Project work hard and fight to get every last ‘pot prisoner’ out of jail.
I also want to mention something that no one is talking about, which is the regulation of CBD and THC. We simply aren’t holding our industry to the highest standard possible. We need every company to be testing their products. There are no real consumer agencies that are testing and reporting. Testing across the board for all products, not just cannabis products, is crucial to success. There needs to be a standard and an authority to answer to.
Q: You are President of the Women in Cannabis Club. Why is female representation in the industry so important?
A: It’s so rare that you see a truly new industry starting up. The tech boom was the last big new industry to come about. As any new industry evolves, it’s essential that women can be leaders and pave the way as that industry defines itself. Women have the same amount–if not more–acumen to perform and carry out leadership tasks as men. Since I started working in cannabis, I have never felt a lot of gender bias. At High Times, I always felt like I was on a level playing field with my male colleagues. Diversity in the workplace is crucial, and so is respect for your colleagues, regardless of gender. Not to mention, it’s a female plant, and we can connect with it! So it’s only natural that women should be leading the way in this industry, and it’s about time.
Q: Recently, the question has been raised in the media: what makes a cannabis mom different from a wine mom? What are your thoughts on cannabis and parenting?
A: I prefer cannabis over alcohol. As a cannabis mom, I feel that I am making a healthier choice for myself. I personally have few health-associated worries when it comes to cannabis, while I have never felt great when drinking. I regularly end up with hangovers, which is something I don’t experience with cannabis. Having said that, the weed mom and the wine mom share many similarities. We’re both making choices when it comes to how we relax. For me personally, I know that I’m making the better choice for myself, and I think that’s what matters in the end.
Q: Many of your articles center around careers in the cannabis industry, will Americans unsatisfied with their jobs move on to something new? Why choose a career in cannabis?
A: There are a ton of opportunities in the cannabis industry and ample room for growth. This industry has something for everyone. If you’re looking to make the switch, it’s important to know that you don’t need to go back to school to get a job. It’s actually easiest to get a job in the industry if you take your current skill set and showcase how you can apply it to this rapidly growing industry. The cannabis industry has a lot of similarities to any other industry, and so it’s no surprise that it has similar needs that aren’t even necessarily directly related to the plant. There is a need for marketing, financing, and advertising. So that means there is room for anyone who’s looking to explore a career in cannabis. If you’re looking to join the field, I’d say search around for local clubs and organizations, get involved to gain some experience, and then start interviewing and see where it takes you. There are also so many courses and certifications you can get to bolster those credentials as well.
Q: You live in NYC; what’s the future of cannabis in NY? What do you hope to see over the months and years to come?
A: As legal cannabis comes to New York, I’m looking forward to the tax dollars we will bring to New York State. We will create job opportunities, and we can even contribute to things like boosting teacher salaries with those tax dollars. I’m also looking forward to the diversity in products we’re going to see. New York City will be the largest legal market in the world, and I can’t wait to see the explosion of creativity in edibles to flower. New York City has attracted the best of the best in everything, and I’d expect nothing different from our cannabis entrepreneurs.
Jen Bernstein is a print and digital media professional with 20+ years of experience. Since graduating with a masters degree in publishing from New York University, she has covered cannabis, entertainment, music, travel, women’s consumer, and men’s luxury as a writer for publications such as High Times, a publication for which she also served as managing editor. In the cannabis world, she is recognized as a thought leader and consultant.