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‘Things Have Changed’: Fairbanks Newpaper Publishes Monthly Marijuana Magazine

KUAC file photo

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has published the second issue of a monthly magazine that’s all about marijuana. The newspaper’s publisher and editor say they launched the Alaska Cannabist to cover the rapidly growing industry and people who want to know more about it.

Managing Editor Rod Boyce acknowledges he’s still sort of getting used to the idea that the News-Miner is putting out a monthly magazine dedicated to covering the state’s marijuana industry.

“I never thought I went to journalism school a long time ago to put out a marijuana magazine,” he said. “I mean, it’s just how things have changed.”

Boyce said in an interview earlier this month it’s only natural that a news outlet would focus on an industry that’s growing so rapidly, and to distribute a publication about it statewide.

“I counted this morning 62 or 63 operating retail stores around the state,” he said. “... We can quickly see that this is a burgeoning industry, and (that) there’s a lot of information out there, I’m convinced, for a monthly publication.”

Boyce says he realizes some may think it’s unusual, maybe even objectionable, for a newspaper to devote so much coverage to an industry that was illegal only a few years ago. But he says he hadn’t gotten any complaints – at least, as of Friday.

Publisher Richard Harris says he had a few reservations after some people who work in the industry first suggested putting out such a magazine in May. He says he initially considered producing just one publication on the subject.

“A one-time thing, it was going to be,” Harris said. “Then we just started talking about it a little bit more. And then it just kind of snowballed with that first issue, with more and more interest from the industry. And we thought, ‘well, if we’re going to do this, let’s try to do it first-class.’ ”

Harris says he’s concluded the Alaska Cannabist could be a money-maker at some point. He says the News-Miner didn’t break even with the 8,000 copies of the slick, full-color magazine’s first issue. And it may not with the second. He says although profit wasn’t the main motivator for launching the Cannabist, he and Boyce both remind that the newspaper is, after all, a business.

Credit Tim Ellis/KUAC
News-Miner Managing Editor Rod Boyce, left, and Publisher Richard Harris.

“You don’t start a product to lose money,” Boyce said, wryly.

“Exactly,” Harris said, adding that the profit motive initially “wasn’t a big factor, because it’s just too new right now. So we don’t know where it’s going to go.”

Full disclosure – both KUAC and Alaska Public Media are news partners with the News-Miner.

Boyce says notwithstanding the stigma and some lingering opposition to pot, there’s nothing unusual about a print-media outlet publishing a periodical that focuses on an industry or subject.

“It’s no different than what newspapers have been doing for a long time – which is, putting out different publications on different subjects,” he said. “We have numerous special sections we do each year on specific subjects: health and wellness, our visitor’s guide, we do back to school. It’s just another publication that we do.”

People in the marijuana industry also are adjusting to being able to advertise their legal products. Chris Ray is the assistant general manager of Fairbanks retail outlet Grass Station 49.  He says he likes the Alaska Cannabist. He says his company has advertised in it, but he’s not sure if it’s boosted sales. He thinks it does, however, have great potential.

Credit Marcey Luther
Left, Chris Ray, Grass Station 49 assistant general manager, and Marcey Luther, Alaska Blooms marketing manager.

“The more popular it gets, the more shops they hit and drop it off and the better that everything inside of this gets, I think it’ll be what Alaska needs,” Ray said.

Marcey Luther, says she likes the Cannabist’s focus on Alaska. Luther is the marketing manager for Alaska Blooms, a Fairbanks cannabis-cultivation company. And she hopes the magazine’s coverage will help companies that, like hers, operate on a slim margin.

“It’s by Alaskans, and for Alaskan,” Luther said. “... I want that money to stay up here. I want those jobs up here. I want that press and that representation. I want Alaskans to be telling the world what’s awesome about Alaska.”

But you won’t be able to find out about that awesomeness unless you swing by a few businesses where the News-Miner has set up racks for the Cannabist. Those are mainly retail marijuana shops in Fairbanks, Anchorage in other communities that’ve approved marijuana sales. They’re also available at other non-marijuana businesses.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.