Cannabis Journalist Interview: Mike Adams

In this brand new interview series, I’ll be interviewing the most influential journalists covering the cannabis industry. The intent is for these interviews is to be fun, enlightening, entertaining and of course informative.

This time we’re talking to Mike Adams, a freelance writer hailing Southern Indiana. When he’s not carving out a juicy story for various publications including Forbes, High Times, Cannabis Now, and BroBible, you can find him down at the local tavern watching the Indiana Pacers. He’s been on the cannabis scene for the past six years, with his work appearing in Playboy’s Smoking Jacket, Mashable, Salon, and the New York Daily News, just to name a few. Mike’s writing is honest, unfiltered and sometimes even controversial, making him one of the best cannabis industry journalists today.

Please share your professional and personal background with our readers.

Ugh. I’m not really interested in talking about myself too much, these days. You should have interviewed me a decade ago, back when I thought I had it all figured out. I probably would have shared more about myself than you’d ever care to hear. But let’s just say that I’m a guy from Southern Indiana, who was lucky enough to climb off the fork truck many years ago to pursue his dream of becoming the best-goddamned writer alive. Not that I am, but it’s what I strive to be. Honestly, my resume from the pre-writing days – because that’s what it sounds like you’re asking for – is pretty dull. I’ve done every shit job known to man in order to do what I do now. And I’m still not where I want to be. My goals are mostly unrealized. I’m not interested in spending the rest of my days writing daily articles about marijuana. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to be able to do what I do, but it’s not my life. I have a novel of fiction that I’m trying to finish and I’d like to have more time to focus in on that.

Honestly, if a publisher handed me a nice chunk of change right now to go off and finish the book, you probably wouldn’t see my words appear in a single publication for the next year or so. I’d disconnect from the scene, just like that! It’s funny because this cannabis journalism gig is more of a hindrance to my real writing endeavors than when I was slaving away in a factory for 12 hours a day. So, it’s always a struggle around here. I’m the portrait of “Be careful what you wish for.” But I’m making progress. I’m just far from happy…or dare I say, content with my place in the world. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever calm down and stop fighting myself. What else do you want to know?

You’ve written over hundreds of articles for High Times, Cannabis Now, Fresh Toast and BroBible can you tell us a little about your writing process?

Well, I won’t share all of my secrets. But I’ll tell you that it takes a lot of discipline and a certain level of crazy to churn out the sheer volume of work that I do all day, every day. I’m not one of these writers who gets up at the ass crack of noon and fumbles around the house drinking coffee for a few hours before planting his in the seat and going to work. Fuck that. There is no escaping my blue-collar DNA. I get up every morning somewhere around 4:30 am… sometimes five… six if I’m trying to sleep off a hangover, which is often. I don’t even eat breakfast until I’ve finished my first article for the day. And then I just keep knocking them down until all of my commitments are met for the day. I think I only took one sick day this year. I’m always working. But if you’re asking me, “what is the secret to being successful in this job?” I’d tell you there is only one — putting your ass in the chair and doing the work, day in and day out. I’ve been doing it like this for ten years or more. Back when I had a real, full time, day job, I was still writing for at least four hours a night. I suppose that’s why I’m always single.

Most people who do this job do not care about becoming great writers, they are only interested in publishing breaking news and telling some same old boring story over and over again. Good for them, but I don’t give two flying squirts about writing news. I’ve done it and its fucking boring. I just want to be creative and entertain my readers. If you see something of mine that isn’t fun or entertaining in some way, it’s probably something I did for the money. Plain and simple. We all need cash to survive. I’m not any different. So I take on some jobs that are just that – jobs – a payday. But if read something of mine and say to yourself, Whoa, this dude is fucking killing it,” not only did I make money but I had fun too. That’s the good shit.

What are some of the biggest opportunities and challenges you see in the cannabis industry?

I don’t know…and they don’t either. It’s funny because when I first started covering the cannabis scene for High Time magazine several years ago, I was under the impression that everyone associated with weed was just like me and wanted to have some fun. So, I wrote all of my articles that way. But I quickly learned through hate mail and internet trolls that the movement to legalize marijuana has become a legion of fucking squares. It’s no longer acceptable to use the words stoner and pothead, and we’re no longer getting high, we’re medicating, and all these other rules. I thought we were supposed to be the outlaws of society. Fuck the rules, right? None of the shit that is happening today is outlaw. And then there is all of this bickering and fighting between the medical marijuana folks and those pushing for full-blown legalization. It cracks me up because they’re all trying to legalize the same fucking plant. So I suppose the primary challenges I see with the cannabis industry is that all of these bastards cannot get out of their own way. It’s not just one movement out there, it’s many. Everyone wants legalization to happen a certain way, yet they complain that the federal government still has the plant by the balls. I’ve got news for them, once Uncle Sam finally embraces marijuana in the same way it has done for alcohol, which is where this country is heading, the concept of medical marijuana will become a dead scene. I mean dead as hell, man. Watch how everything shakes out in Canada if you don’t believe me. Or just take a look at the history of alcohol in general. During prohibition in the U.S. doctors were prescribing booze to people for health conditions ranging from anxiety to depression. It was considered medicine. None of that shit happens today because, well, all of us can just go over to the fucking liquor store or convenience store and buy what we need. Marijuana is not going to be any different in the long run. There are truly so many obstacles. There’s a reason it has taken decades to start chipping away at marijuana prohibition. A unified effort may have fared differently. We could have been fully legal a long time ago.

What stories are you most interested in right now? What topics do you enjoy writing about?

Anything that doesn’t bore me. I know this interview is supposed to be focused on cannabis, the industry and the journalism that surrounds it. But I’m making moves to get away from pot-related stories. I used to do a lot of the same news stuff that you see in nearly every pot publication from High Times to Merry Jane, but we are entering a turning point and that daily news shit is going to become mostly obsolete. Once weed goes legal, the publications covering this subject will be forced to go one of two ways – they’ll either have to become industry or lifestyle rags. They will not be able to continue the same narrative as they do now. All of these writers that you’re interviewing, if they expect to remain a part of cannabis journalism, they will have to start focusing on all of the products, entrepreneur success stories, stocks, etc. It will no longer be us against the system. It’s going to be, welcome to the mainstream motherfuckers. The fight is over. I don’t care how many people the Drug Policy Alliance says is still in jail or prison for pot possession, we’re now to the point where we’re just waiting for the government to embrace this concept and get on with it. Eventually, the people who got popped for possession will get out of jail. Or they won’t. Regardless, the industry is going to become just as strong and inherently evil as the alcohol and tobacco trade. Try and stop it.This is America…capitalism and greed is what we do best.

These industries have already infiltrated the cannabis trade and will eventually do what they can to absorb it. Big surprise. Most of the people working for companies like Medmen will probably go on to work for companies willing to pay them the big bucks for their expertise. But, as for me, I’m transitioning out. It was fun and equally excruciating while it lasted. But I’ll still come around from time to time. Once weed is legal everywhere, you will probably see me penning humorous pieces about some of the dumb shit taking place in the newly legal market. But I will not cover the cannabis industry post-legalization. I mean, how fucking boring is that? Listen, I drink a shit ton of beer, but I never write anything about the alcohol industry for the sake of just promoting new products or anything like that. I do however write stuff about the after-effects of booze consumption — the hangovers, the sexual oops moments, all that stuff. I sometimes touch on the new research that comes out on booze, especially if it is negative. I’ll still do that with weed after it goes legal. I thoroughly enjoy pointing out the dark side of things people love.

How do you think journalism has changed in the past few years and is traditional PR still important?

It’s changed quite a bit. Guys that were doing what I do four decades ago were writing like one or two feature pieces a month. There was no internet, only daily and weekly newspapers and monthly publications. I’m doing two to three articles a day. So is anyone else out there making a living in this business. But writers don’t get to spend as much time with their words as they used to. It was considered more of a craft back in the day. I don’t feel like most of them doing it today even try to be creative. They all probably fuck exclusively in the missionary position. But it probably doesn’t matter anyway.

The only thing the audience seems to be reading these days is the headlines. I could probably write a detailed account about how marijuana is this vile, evil plant and perhaps even take a position in favor of prohibition, but as long as I included a headline that reads, “New Study Finds Cannabis Cures Cancer,” nobody would ever know the difference. They would rejoice at the good news and click the “LIKE” button on Facebook and move on. You see, the people don’t really want the truth. They want a sensationalized account, what they believe this plant to be, not the actual details. I think that’s a lot of it. The reader has changed, so journalism is struggling to figure out what to do next to get their attention. Marijuana journalism is easy. Just tell the reader what they want to hear. I don’t do that. I typically find some way to make them mad.

As I’m sure you know, reaching relevant media and journalists is a major challenge for entrepreneurs, especially in the cannabis industry. What’s the best way to reach you, in a way that captures your attention?

Personally, I’m always searching for something different to write about, and I never know what that is going to be until I see it. I get bombarded with emails from PR firms every day wanting me to give their clients some kind of coverage, but I don’t do anything with most of them because I know that every other cannabis journalist received the same message. I need to feel confident that what I’m doing nobody else is working on. I have an affinity for the weird, so just having a nice product isn’t going to be something I can do anything with. If you really want me to pay attention to your pitch, send it to my office attached to a pizza.

Going back to the cannabis industry, how do you see the state of the industry right now, and where do you think we will be 5 years from now?

Legal and boring. I know that sounds cynical and maybe it is to some degree. But I believe it to be true.  

What do you think most entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry get wrong about their marketing strategies?

I don’t know that anybody is getting anything wrong. It’s such a new business that I think the concept of strategy is wide open. They just have to figure out what works, just like another other industry. But if there is one thing, it’s the industry’s preaching to the choir mentality. I’m looking forward to the day when I see weed ads showing up in Playboy and Rolling Stone and Chevrolet ads on the back cover of Cannabis Now.

I feel like that type of crossover is good for business across the board. Weed’s nowhere near fucking mainstream until those types of ad buys are being made on a regular basis. I just think there are a lot of opportunities that companies are missing – not only the cannabis firms. You have to realize that the cannabis consumer also buys other products. They shop for the same shit as everyone else. On the flipside, not every cannabis consumer reads cannabis publications. They just like to get stoned on occasion and read about their favorite band or chef. Whatever. Again, missed opportunities.

You recently shared on Facebook that you’re raising money for a local rescue shelter. Tell us about that and how can we help?

I just try to raise a little money for the local homeless shelters every year around the holidays. I was homeless for a short time (not like sleeping on the streets and eating out of the trash homeless but no physical address) and I know that all it takes is one bad day or one terrible situation and I’m back there again. It could happen to any of us. We’re all just one bad fucking day from losing everything. If you stop and think about that, it’s pretty scary. But these people are treated like pariah because most of society believes that homeless people just don’t want to work or pay their way. That may be true for some. But a lot of these folks simply had their asses handed to them at some point and just couldn’t recover in time to save themselves. I hate that, but it happens all of the time. So I feel the need to spread the wealth a little – even if it is just feeding a few people on the holidays. I know it’s not much. I don’t have that kind of clout to change the world. But I definitely don’t want to see anyone going hungry or suffering on the holidays. It breaks my heart. If you’re going to help, start by helping out your local rescue missions. That’s the way to do it. That’s some pure, roll up your sleeves and support your community shit.

SIDE NOTE – Here’s how to donate to Mike’s worthy cause.

Who would you recommend we interview next, and why?

I’m going to say Cannabis Now senior editor Ellen Holland. She’s also a journalist. I’ve never met anyone who cares about cannabis as much as she does. She’s fucking super smart and probably one of the most thorough and efficient editors I’ve ever worked with. She would make a good interview. I’m sure of it.

Thanks for sharing your insights with us Mike, it was a truly an eye-opener talking to you and getting your perspective of the industry.