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Emerson Alum Is Boston Globe’s First Cannabis Reporter

Customers wait in line to purchase recreational marijuana at the Cultivate dispensary on the first day of legal sales, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, in Leicester, Massachusetts. Emerson alumnus Dan Adams ’13 is the Boston Globe‘s first dedicated cannabis reporter. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
By David Ertischek ’01

For Emerson grad Dan Adams ’13, writing about Massachusetts’ now legal and emerging marijuana industry is much more than stoner puns.

“Cannabis is a fascinating subject. It’s a business story, it’s a cultural story, it’s a racial story, it’s a criminal justice story, it’s a political story, it’s a legal story, it’s a health and science story. There are so many different angles,” said Adams, who majored in Journalism.

As the Boston Globe’s lead reporter for the marijuana industry, Adams has been very busy since retail stores legally opened on November 20. While often crammed in his car to make deadlines, Adams said he’s spent more time in Leicester (pronounced less-ter), in the central part of the state than he ever thought he would in his life. (Leicester is home to one of only two recreational marijuana dispensaries that opened in the state.)

“The last few weeks have been hectic, but also gratifying from writing about all these policies and regulations and to see them put into place and action,” said Adams, who interned at the Globe while attending Emerson College. “Lots of people are saying it’s going to die down and the beat will calm down. Some people say, ‘You’ve got the coolest job.’ It’s true, but not because it’s easy. Sometimes there are assumptions about it being a fluffy topic. There is a lot of breadth to it and we’re just getting started.”

The Globe’s leadership agrees with Adams as they created a whole new section for the now-regulated industry. Up on the homepage you can see the marijuana section along with old standbys such as sports, politics, real estate and opinion.

One thing that’s very important to Adams is giving the marijuana industry the attention and respect he feels it deserves. He said he watched media outlets joke about the industry when it was legalized in Colorado in 2012, as there were loads of playful references to Denver as the Mile High City.

“This is a whole new legal economy and a whole new industry. There are lots of serious implications. The popular media’s coverage was to sensationalize it,” said Adams, who pursued the beat with the Globe when it became available.

“I’m looking forward to doing articles about accountability and seeing if regulations are being followed. I want to cover equity and diversity in the business, considering how marijuana laws were unfairly enforced in the past,” said Adams, adding he wants to provide a microphone to those who have been disenfranchised. “The law calls for equity to be carried out the way the voters wanted it to be carried out.”

That due diligence of acknowledging different perspectives was something that was fostered at Emerson, said Adams. He also credits Emerson with teaching him to collaborate with others, and providing him with very strong technical writing skills that he uses every single day.

Before covering the marijuana industry, Adams made his name as a business reporter uncovering statewide pay-to-play tactics by beer companies and distributors. His coverage led to state and federal investigations triggering some of the biggest fines for alcohol companies the state has ever handed down.

Adams was also happy to shift his focus to the cannabis industry.

“I love covering the marijuana world and like it a lot more than covering alcohol because it’s so diverse with people with different stories,” he said. “A lot of the companies are majority-minority. There are fascinating people with enthralling stories. I think I’ll never get bored covering this.”

Dan Adams writes a weekly newsletter for The Boston Globe called This Week in Weed, which encapsulates the paper’s coverage with more of a personal voice and more attitude.  

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