Dear reader: A letter from Amanda Siebert
First—thanks for reading. An independent publication is nothing without readers and to have your interest means a lot. In order to explain why I’m part of this thing called Inside the Jar, I’d like to prime you on a few things.
Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to write on a subject I’m very passionate about, and in several different ways. It’s helped me pinpoint the kind of work I enjoy, and more importantly, the kind of work I absolutely despise.
One of my first serious gigs at an independent newspaper provided me with the chance to explore. I relished the opportunity to write about virtually anything I wanted, and new assignments every day meant that I was never doing the same thing two days in a row. For a young reporter, it was dope. But let’s get real, newspapers pay dog shit. No matter how much work I pumped out and how many last-minute covers I shot, it would never allow me to build the life I wanted.
Soon I was burned out, and on top of it all, dealing with some serious mental health issues that made my brain feel like it lacked the power to move through even the most mundane of daily tasks, never mind the meticulous ones associated with my job. When I was presented with the chance to write copy for BC’s provincial cannabis distributor at a rate that made my previous employer’s look like minimum wage, I jumped at the opportunity. Sure, the work would be easy—but I needed a fucking break. That was in June 2018.
The year I spent contracting for the provincial distributor forced a sort of patience I didn’t know I was capable of. The government is as slow or slower than you’ve been told; being given one month to write four short blogs felt like the antithesis of the newsroom. I was out of my element in such a huge way that I began to forget what it felt like to have the fire of a serious deadline under my ass. Still, it was the break I needed from the frenzied pace and unrelenting pressure of journalism.
In the midst of all of this, I published a book about cannabis, which, to my absolute delight, is doing pretty well. I also started doing freelance work for different clients, and learned quickly that “creating content” and “writing copy” was, though a decent way to pay the bills, a massive creative drain and one I didn’t feel was sustainable either—simply because it was so goddamned boring.
So when the opportunity to be a founder, editor, and creator at an independently funded start-up project with three adored colleagues was presented to me, I didn’t think twice. No word count restrictions? Yes. Wages that won’t force me to have several side gigs? Fuck yes. Curating freelance assignments and creating our very own publishing platform catered to the stoner in everyone? Fucking YES.
Experiencing these extremes has been eye-opening. While I feel immense gratitude and don’t take a day of this for granted, I’ve observed, as I’m sure many of you have, that working in the cannabis industry has earned a (mostly unwarranted) shiny veneer. We walk around at conferences with our chests high, patting each other on the back and bragging about being on the cutting edge of something new and exciting—but we’re stepping on the people who carved the very path we’re walking on. We’re consciously erasing an entire population of individuals that for decades have risked their livelihoods, and are still struggling to find their way to the new market, and it feels like we’re congratulating each other about it. Gross.
We’re so excited by the shiny object that is cannabis legalization that we’re afraid to ask the hard questions. Beneath it all, there have been monumental fuckups occurring at every level of government and in all areas of the business. The challenge in covering these issues is that not everyone wants to talk about the negative. Some days, the shine of legalization feels legitimate. Yes, we’re taking an important step that will inspire policy change around the world. But our intention is so flawed that often, I feel like it’s just a dirty pie plate in the grass catching a ray of sun. I wouldn’t even fashion a makeshift pipe out of it, yet here we are looking to praise it at every opportunity. It feels fake.
I keep thinking about the line in our manifesto that refers to writing “without restriction”. For me, this is one of the biggest draws of Inside the Jar. It means a freedom to write; not just when it comes to the number of words, but the type of words, the style, the formatting… if we’re going to bootstrap this project, you better believe we’re going to be doing it our way. Yes, words can’t just be thrown around aimlessly and I intend to use them with purpose—but I’m also thrilled to let loose a little. I firmly believe that we need to start asking each other tougher questions, but I think in the midst of all of that, life requires levity. I’m excited to be working in an environment and with a group of individuals that recognizes that, in between channelling our rage at shitty policy, overpriced mids, and c-suite cronies, it’s important to laugh at ourselves from time to time, too.
Here’s to writing without restriction.