News & Politics

Politico Pro Is Launching a Cannabis Policy Vertical

The publication is the first national policy outlet with a dedicated cannabis team. Don't expect any weed jokes.

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Politico Pro is launching a vertical dedicated to cannabis policy and regulation. Its first preview newsletter came out Monday, and readers can access the publication for free through September 30.

“It’s a heavily regulated industry and a very rapidly changing one and it also sort of intersects with every policy area that Politico already covers,” cannabis editor Paul Demko says. “We also see a void in the media treating this like a multibillion-dollar, heavily regulated industry rather than an excuse to make weed jokes.” 

To date, industry news has predominantly been covered by marijuana-centric publications like Marijuana Business Daily. Politico is the first national policy publication to assign a team to the swiftly growing industry. The outlet’s subscription service, Politico Pro, has more than 27,000 users who access its coverage through the subscriptions of 4,500 businesses, organizations, associations, and universities.

Demko is a familiar byline at Politico, moving from his role as a healthcare reporter. He is joined by federal cannabis policy reporter Natalie Fertig and state cannabis policy reporter Mona Zhang.

Fertig has written about cannabis policy for Rolling Stone and Politico Magazine, and Zhang is the founder of daily cannabis newsletter Word on the Trees, with cannabis bylines in the Outline and Forbes.

“It‘s the ultimate policy job because it’s completely new,” Fertig says. “It’s a fruition of covering things that already existed in politics and now moving into something that doesn’t exist. It’s a new challenge.” 

One of those challenges is covering an industry that remains illegal on the federal level, even as 11 states have legalized it. In addition to Fertig and Zhang, Politico’s network of state bureaus and Canada (where weed is legal) will also contribute reporting.

The team has also considered how to write about cannabis respectfully. You won’t find any weed puns in their articles. Instead, cannabis is approached with the same attitude as the policies it touches, like financial services and FDA regulation.

“It’s the first major national news organization to create a full cannabis team and I think that’s a really amazing opportunity,” Fertig says. “We’re going to be doing some stuff that no one else is doing and we have the resources to do that.” 

Daniella Byck
Lifestyle Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in 2022. She was previously with Outside Magazine and lives in Northeast DC.