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FEATURE: Trailblazer smokes the patriarchy

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By Maria Odenbaugh

Photo courtesy of Hannah Bernabe

Originally from Long Island, New York, Jackie Bryant is a trailblazer for other women in the cannabis industry and journalism.

Bryant is a San Diego based freelance journalist, managing editor for San Diego Magazine and host of “The Plant Lady,” her newest podcast. She produces her own newsletter, “Cannab—-” and continues to write for well known publications like The New York Times, Forbes and Playboy. Along with winning several San Diego Press Club and San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists awards, she’s qualified by a federal judge as an expert in the Southern California cannabis industry and an expert on the cannabis plant.

Bryant has written stories on marijuana farms, growers and all aspects of the cannabis world. A world that is mostly male influenced and dominated.

Bryant said that her path into journalism was unique due to her start as a freelancer. 

“I had a very non-traditional path in journalism,” she said. 

Yet, freelancing allowed her to follow things she was genuinely interested in. This led to her reporting about cannabis.

She realized that writing about marijuana was an outlet to expose the hypocrisy within the industry and the abusive power surrounding it.

“I kinda just realized you could write about weed in the same way you could write about lifestyle topics,” Bryant said.  

The legalization of marijuana allowed her to branch out and dive deeper into the topic, fulltime. Prior to legalization, it was hard for her to get her work published in publications other than, “weed media.”

 “It gave more opportunity because more outlets were willing to go there,”  Bryant said, “It was new, it was interesting.” 

Last Thanksgiving, she wrote a piece for The New York Times introducing “Danksgiving,” a way of celebrating Thanksgiving while incorporating cannabis in every aspect. Before the legalization, getting a piece about incorporating cannabis into Thanksgiving on a huge publication would have been a battle. 

As a cannabis journalist, she has dealt with stories getting cut without notice. Those experiences compelled Bryant to excel in the male dominated industry and gain the trust of people in the industry. Her early voice in the age of legalization, freelance media experience and connections served as an advantage in the field. 

Bryant was at an advantage over most journalists in gaining access to sources who were willing to talk and share more about the topic.

Ricky Williams, retired NFL star  and founder of a cannabis lifestyle brand “Highsman,” and Bryant talked about the importance of mental health in her podcast and explained how they use the plant as a tool for mental health but with limitations

 “It does come with some risks, I always believe in being honest and standing up for it,” Bryant said, “But I also do think it’s worth questioning, ‘Is my use harmful?’”

Bryant is expecting her first child in a couple of months and has already noticed her career change due to the fact that she can’t consume what she reports on.

“When you become pregnant, instantly it is very obvious who decides you are no longer relevant,” Bryant said.

She mentioned she lost followers subsequent to her pregnancy announcement on social media. She assumed that the duality of being pregnant and still covering cannabis could bother certain people.

 She uses being an educated, white woman to her advantage in cannabis journalism to establish a safe and nondiscriminatory space in the cannabis industry.

“Just by being in (that) space, there aren’t a lot of women who feel like they can’t be (open) with their use for a variety of reasons,” Bryant said, “I won’t be discriminated against the same way that probably certain other people will, I try to push that envelope by asserting myself in the space.”

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