As I noted in my latest podcast episode marking 4/20/2020, there is a serious problem in today’s cannabis industry that doesn’t tend to make headlines: in short, that cannabis writers keep getting ‘stiffed’ by well-known clients who publish their work.
In recent months and years, numerous cannabis media outlets have made a habit of not paying their writers, editors, and other journalists either in full or on time — often forcing writers to send repeated requests for payment, to borrow money rather than miss rent, or to finally give up on what they’re owed.
Dozens of cannabis journalists I’ve spoken to in the past year say they’ve frequently faced late or missing payments, unanswered emails, and all manner of ‘getting the run-around’ from a growing list of cannabis publications or communications employers, from print outlets to online platforms. In the context of prior industry layoffs as well as COVID-19 realities, these complaints have only grown more common, and more dire.
The list of companies facing nonpayment allegations is still developing (and will be updated as needed on an ongoing basis), but well-known outlets that were mentioned in multiple workers’ accounts so far include High Times, Leafly, and Civilized, all of which have had major leadership and/or ownership changes in recent months (disclosure: I published several freelance pieces with Leafly in the past two years).
In fact, cannabis media workers identified numerous publications they feel have tried in earnest to pay employees and/or contractors in a competitive or at least timely manner, and that have been largely successful, as far as those workers were aware.
Media companies also aren’t known for having a lot of cash on hand, and writers, editors, photographers, illustrators, and many other contractors (even at the most well-known and typeface-y publications) are typically used to payment processes that may take weeks or months — and occasionally years, or just days — depending on the company, and/or its bank account.
So cannabis media workers presumably have learned some amount of patience; they also know that times are tough everywhere, and since everyone (and every company) makes mistakes, they’re usually willing (like most people) to forgive. But bad habits are harder to brush off, for workers or vendors in any professional field, and are seldom forgotten.
The journalists I spoke to live in four countries (but hail from many more), and described being stiffed or memorably delayed in receiving payments, ranging from hundreds to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars per outlet, by a growing list of newer-to-well-known cannabis publications or communications clients based in the US, Canada, and other countries.
Every journalist, writer, or other communications professional I spoke to had stories to tell (so to speak) on this problem in cannabis media specifically, whether about themselves, their colleagues, or both. Some said they were also aware that, at certain publications, payments would sometimes be issued on time (or close to it) to some writers but not others, for reasons that remained unclear. More than half said that some of the payment issues they encountered, often around communication, marked a new personal low in their professional experience.
Published: April 20, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News