The Canna Journalist Episode #4 — Ethics, Journalism & THC-O Acetate
As a journalist and writer, I have great power — the publication I manage saw more than 350,000 new readers in 2019, and my Quora account is about to turn over 2 million views in less than two years. That kind of visibility is power — but with that power comes responsibility, as well.
Ethics, Journalism, and THC-O Acetate - Kristina Etter: The Canna Journalist
To kick off the new year, let's talk about what it means to be a reporter in the cannabis industry. With great power…
One of the things I’ve learned as my career evolves is that nothing in this world matters but the truth, and eventually, all facts find their way to the surface. With the internet, information comes at the click of a button, but it also gives everyone a platform. While I believe that most people are good-intentioned, there are still shady players that will take advantage of a situation for personal gain. Today, in the heart of cannabis legalization there is a strange tug of war between,
Those wanting to educate the world about cannabis,
and those who simply want to profit off of it.
Before I fell into the cannabis industry, I explored various options in a writing career, direct marketing, and content marketing were undoubtedly the most lucrative paths for an aspiring writer. So, after quitting my long-time career in IT, the first thing I did was enroll in an online content marketing course. But here’s where I ran into problems;
I started to feel “icky.”
The lessons I learned in this content marketing class centered more on human psychology, playing on emotions, and provoking a particular response with the power of prose. I was learning how to coerce people into buying something they probably didn’t need, and likely couldn’t afford, in pursuit of residual income. You see, in direct mail/content marketing, the most successful writers get paid based on the number of people they convince to respond.
I have a terrible poker face — if I’m not 100% vested myself, you’re going to see right through me.
The unfortunate side to this is that the most successful marketing programs, and the wealthiest marketing writers, get that way by manipulating people. They use emotion-evoking language to incite feelings of fear, need, urgency, vanity, and desire — all with the specific intent to convince someone they must have whatever it is you’re selling. Marketing writers are groomed in the art of conjuring a prescribed response. And I quickly learned — I couldn’t do it. Not even in my fictitious course assignments that included selling puppy food and life insurance, I couldn’t bring myself to talk approvingly of something I didn’t believe in personally.
Truth be told — I am a terrible salesperson. I cannot lie to you and tell you that a product has incredible benefits — unless I genuinely believe that it does. I have a terrible poker face — if I’m not 100% vested myself, you’re going to see right through me. This is why I enjoyed being a budtender in Denver — I believed in the product, and I could sell it anyone — with honesty and passion.
When I started writing about cannabis, I was like most other cannabis writers out there, a strong advocate who could not comprehend how the world has overlooked the mysteries of the herb for so long. I blogged about the benefits. I shared the success stories. I wanted everyone in the world to learn the same information I was learning.
I built my own blog site, with the intent of eventually being able to promote and advertise for cannabis companies and CBD producers, but then I ran into another moral dilemma… selling products on my site instantly made my reviews feel less credible. I didn’t want it to seem like my opinion could be bought, it can’t. But I could still hear people saying, “Oh sure, she just says that to sell us a product.”
Adding advertisements on my site made me feel like I was selling out.
Upon having this epiphany, I realized that to be the best writer I could be, I needed to focus on the truth, which lies in the research and the science — and I had to bring that same honesty and passion to my writing career — soon my journalistic writing style emerged, and I found my niche in cannabis technology.
Choosing Ethics First
This time last year, I had an opportunity to write for a large marketing firm, and after writing the first article for them, I backed out, despite the promise of on-going work. Although consistent work is always good for a hungry freelancer, I simply didn’t agree with the technology they used to gather data from consumers. I felt it was unethical and contributed to massive privacy issues with mobile technology. When I resigned from the project, I was honest and explained in detail why I couldn’t continue to write for them.
Over the last several years as a cannabis writer and consumer, with an incredible success story, I’ve had numerous companies want to share our story as an endorsement for their product — products that I’ve never tried and that weren’t directly related to my husband and I’s success. Naturally, I refuse.
In this day and age, everywhere we look, influencers and celebrities are slapping their endorsements on products in exchange for hefty paydays. But at what point are they simply collecting the check with no regard for the product in reality?
Don’t get me wrong, I like making money just as much as the next person — I just refuse to jeopardize my ethics or the credibility of our story to do so. I’m a writer, not a politician. Instead of selling or endorsing products to earn a commission, today, I carefully pick and choose the clients I write for and only take on those clients who I believe in, carry the same values, and have a mission that speaks to me.
In other words, I want to be trusted, more than I want to be paid.
The Moral of the Story
Now, I have told you all of this… to lead up to this point. Despite not promising anything in return, as a journalist in the cannabis industry, I am often given opportunities to try new products and sample a wide variety of cannabis and hemp consumables.
Companies like Humming Hemp have sent me care packages of natural hemp foods. Dozens of CBD companies have sent me samples of their tinctures. But never have I been more excited to get a sample of a product than the products I received two weeks ago.
Honest Marijuana, a Colorado-based cannabis producer, allowed me to be an early tester of a new product about to hit the market. THC-O-Acetate, a laboratory-manufactured cannabinoid.
THC-O is not produced naturally — it is a cannabinoid made from THC, using chemicals to alter the cannabinoid. THC-O is said to be about 3x as potent as THC and supposed to create a more psychedelic, spiritual effect.
Early in my career, I wrote about this man-made cannabinoid — it really hasn’t been heard of since a guy in Florida was busted, making it 1978. However, knowing what I know about the cannabis industry and the extraction and isolation of cannabinoids, I knew it was only a matter of time before this elusive cannabinoid made a resurgence.
After publishing a recent article, a colleague of mine reached out and told me the production of THC-O has been happening in various areas of Denver for several years, but it’s rarely heard of, and HM is the first to attempt to bring it to the legal market. He also pointed out that technically, THC-O isn’t a synthetic compound, but rather “a modified organic compound, in the same way, other cannabinoids are created through degradation or acetylation.”
Let the Experiments Begin
While I typically avoid synthetics of any variety, I was excited to sample these THC-O products. Honest Marijuana is a large, well-known company with an array of professionals working on this project. I trusted this scenario much more than I would if someone had told me it had been made in their brother’s neighbor’s kitchen.
The Overall Experience
The products came in familiar forms: a flavorless, odorless vape pen and sublingual, dissolving mints.
Now, I wanted to give these products my full attention. Since I’m a daily cannabis consumer, I waited until the next day to try the products to reduce any conflicts between cannabinoids and so I could give an honest opinion.
So, upon waking, I took two of the mints and a couple of puffs off of the vape pen.
THC-O Acetate has a delayed effect similar to cannabis edibles because the THC has to de-acetylate first. For me, within about 15 minutes of ingestion, I started to get tingles or chills all over my skin. I also found myself unable to really focus on much of anything. I did notice an increased heart rate, and I had a feeling I can only compare that of caffeine anhydrous, a powdered caffeine, and a common supplement used by athletes and bodybuilders. Back in my gym rat days, I looked for any way possible to ramp up my metabolism, and it was like taking two energy drinks in a single capsule. Great for losing weight, but they often caused what I can only describe as a “chemical-laden, nasal vapor” — every time you take a breath, you could almost ‘smell’ the vapor of the caffeine powder you’d ingested. It “felt” synthetic.
This is how I describe the aftereffect of THC-O, it felt distinctly foreign. My husband, Gary, described it, “like vaping K2 oil.” I did feel incredibly alert and aware but in an unfocused, unproductive manner. On the back end, it left me with a slight headache or pressure — similar to that of smoking a Headband strain.
However, I didn’t find it profoundly more potent.
This was just my first experiment, though, I know that things like my environment, mood, and other factors can alter how the effects are perceived, so I didn’t give up and vowed to give it another try at a later date. I wanted to be able to provide a thorough, honest review.
A few days later, I needed to sit down and get some writing done, so I nibbled on a couple of the mints and sat down to go to work. Again, the familiar tingles within 3–5 minutes, then after about 15 minutes, I could feel myself losing interest in the words on the page and losing complete focus on the topic I wanted to write about. Realizing I wasn’t going to get anything done, I delayed writing and went back to cleaning the kitchen until I could clear my head. Still, that mild head pressure persisted through the second experiment.
Then, before I sat down to write out my thoughts for this episode, I took several puffs off of the vape pen, only to find myself seriously distracted again. However, while I waited for the effects to wear off enough to be able to focus on writing again, I put on my headset and listened to Pretty Lights, and my lack of focus for the words on a page turned into hyper-focus on the musical notes dancing through my earbuds.
After my head cleared, I went back to writing, with the familiar mild ring of pressure around my skull.
My final words on THC-O are that it’s not for me; it was not conducive to productivity — I wanted to be productive, but I was too distracted to get anything done, which only contributes to my feelings of anxiety. However, by merely taking a break and letting myself get lost in the music, the anxiety quickly drifted away, and soon I found myself clear-headed and ready to work. The effects didn’t appear to last very long. The mild head pressure isn’t overbearing, but it also isn’t all that pleasant.
While I understand that everyone’s chemistry is different, for me personally… I’ll be sticking with natural cannabis and products. I won’t say anything against the manufacture of THC-O, as it may have application in cases where patients are resistant to cannabinoids, and certainly, we must encourage the research into all cannabinoids, natural and synthetic.
I certainly appreciated the opportunity to test the product and apply my own journalistic perspective on differences in how it affects me personally. And while it should be evident without saying, I have not been compensated in any way for this review.
At the same time, I have to wonder… just because we can, it doesn’t always mean that we should.
Originally published at https://www.responsiblecannabistherapy.com on January 9, 2020.