This time in our ongoing series of interviews with cannabis industry journalists we’re talking to independent journalist and writer Peter Page.

Peter spent the past five years at Entrepreneur Media, first as a senior editor managing contributed content from distinguished business leaders and later launching Green Entrepreneur, the cannabis vertical. He also contributes to Benzinga.com

Please share your professional and personal background with our readers.

There were five newspapers published daily in San Francisco when I was a little kid and we had them all delivered at our house. Taking fiction writing classes in college helped me realize I loathed sitting alone in my house trying to write, so I helped establish a campus newspaper. Following graduation, I spent 17 years in newspaper journalism, including five years in Mendocino County just as the aerial enforcement campaign against small pot growers got underway and nine years in a tough and declining Northeast city watching the urban version of the War on Drugs. I got into covering the legal marijuana industry while working at Entrepreneur Media.

When did you first get interested in covering the Cannabis industry?

When the cops in helicopters started hunting hippies in the hills of the Emerald Triangle.

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

If you have a large fortune to begin with, then the cannabis industry is a big opportunity to make it a small fortune. There is far more money changing hands than being made. But even putting aside the tax and banking obstacles, nobody knows what, besides selling flower, will work. Will infused beverages ever take hold, or do people drink for one reason and use cannabis for another?

How will these reports of severe lung disease affect the market for vaporizers, which posture as being healthier than smoking? If you are looking to make money in the cannabis industry now, instead of eventually, you’re probably much better off selling to the industry than selling cannabis.

If you’re a lawyer or accountant, it’s not hard to shift focus to the cannabis business. Same for owners of commercial properties, or packaging suppliers, or security firms, and so on. I’d rather be in the business of packaging cannabis products, and have all the usual tax deductions and banking access, than be the one selling the products. (I suppose if I could tell you the opportunities without making them all sound like the challenges I would be in business instead of writing about business.)

The big challenges, aside from the obvious ones like crippling taxation, operating in cash and byzantine regulation, are all about vision. Brands like to talk about “wellness” in some way or another because it seems a good way to broach the delicate topic of getting buzzed to some customized degree to cope with “stress,” which is code for ordinary life.

Our vocabulary for talking about this is limited because of how we categorize cannabis. It’s “medicine” in states with “medical marijuana” but something like alcohol in the 11 states that have legalized “recreational” or “adult use” marijuana. Nonetheless, there is lots of overlap in the products stocked at both sorts of dispensaries. In states where cannabis is fully legal, patients with medical marijuana prescriptions often buy at adult dispensaries (because they simply want flower with ample THC). People in those states who could qualify for prescriptions often don’t bother and just buy flower at a “recreational” dispensary.

You’ve published dozens of articles on Green Entrepreneur. What stories are you most interested in right now? What captures your attention?

Industrial hemp is what interests me most right now. Hemp has immense potential to become the basic raw material for thousands of products, which would be a tremendous economic boost to rural America, and perhaps the beginning of a much more sustainable economy.

How do you think journalism has changed in the past few years and is traditional PR still relevant going into 2020?

The rise of social media and the internet has displaced journalism from its traditional role as gatekeeper for accurate information. There is unlikely to ever be another Walter Cronkite who everybody trusts to know and speak the truth. At the same time, the decline of newspapers has left voids in countless communities. It’s actually a gap for PR to fill. PR and journalism are much more symbiotic than journalists want to concede.

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, and more importantly, what makes you choose one story over another?

People are welcome to email me. The stories I choose are the ones that seem most credible and least self-serving.

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?

The industry is here to stay but I would not be surprised if there is a lot of pain along the way, particularly for publicly traded companies with unrealistically high valuations (which is all of them unless their stock has already crashed). As for five years from now, it’s impossible to predict. People think federal legalization is “inevitable” but there seems no movement in that direction currently. The legislatures in New York and New Jersey, both of which have Democrat majorities sending bills to Democrat governors, failed to legalize. This really muddled situation could go on for a long time, or abruptly end. No one knows but probably some think they do.

What cannabis-related products or services do you think are the most impressive right now, and why?

The research into plant genetics and methods for efficiently producing cannabis could bring big benefits to food production and agriculture more generally. The scaling of the supply chain in the hemp industry is fascinating. For the marijuana side of it, cannabis entrepreneurs should stay humble. The so-called black market is much bigger still than the legal regulated market, and flower is still the most commonly purchased product.

Who would you recommend we interview next, and why?

Javier Hasse at Benzinga is a young journalist in the thick of the industry with an international perspective.

We couldn’t agree more. Thank you for taking the time to share your views with us Peter!

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