At the end of 2012, Washington became one of the first states in the country to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Last year, marijuana sales in the state reached $260 million, and sales are expected to increase to more than $800 million this year, according to Dan Fritts, product development manager for the Spokesman-Review. That’s why the Washington newspaper decided to launch the Spokannabist, a monthly publication focused on the news, legal aspects and business side of legal marijuana.
“Our whole vision is that there hasn’t been anything in the local market here that’s being done or produced by local media that’s covering this industry, so we saw that as an opportunity,” Fritts said.
Since launching the Spokannabist in May, the publication has grown from a 12-page tabloid to a 16-page tabloid. Fritts said the first two issues sold out their ad space at $7,500 for each month and they increased their target revenue to $10,000 for the third publication.
“What’s kind of crazy right now in Spokane County is we have 18 retail locations, so right now, there’s, like, another 15 that are proposed and then in Kings County, which is on the west side of the state, there’s, like, 61 retail licenses and there’s another 53 proposed. So, just seeing that growth and what’s expected this year and seeing what’s on the docket, it’s a serious business and a lot of people are supporting it,” said Fritts.
He admitted the newspaper was hesitant at first to publish content about the controversial topic, but audiences have been receptive and businesses have flocked to advertise with them. In fact, the Spokesman-Review sales team was able to get a number of advertisers to switch over from the local alternative weekly paper to the Spokesman-Review.
“They saw the value and the opportunity with the audience that we had,” Fritts said.
While the Spokesman-Review doesn’t have a dedicated staff yet for the Spokannabist, Fritts said that may change depending on the success of it. They’re currently working on growing and solidifying the publication in the region and creating a digital component, which may include a website or an app.
“We’re trying to be very objective, truthful, and informative,” Fritts said. “We’re not trying to be pro-industry; we’re not trying to be one of these cultural magazines, if you will. But report the facts and let people know what’s going on.”