Pubdate: Sat, 31 Dec 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Emily Baron Cadloff
Page: R1
Cited: Civilized:


It started beside a dumpster. Derek Riedle was hunched next to the
garbage bin, tucked behind the back of an upscale Italian restaurant
in Venice, Calif. Riedle had taken his wife, Terri, out to celebrate
her birthday - and while she sat at the table enjoying a glass of
wine, Riedle was in the back alley, taking hits of marijuana off his
vape pen.

"The inequities of cannabis, the prohibition, occurred to us numerous
times over the years, but there was something about that night. I was
really moved to do something about it," Riedle said.

Riedle, 45, is clean-cut and fashionable, with curly brown hair. He
studied public relations at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax
before starting his own marketing firm. He and Terri became so
successful with the firm, Revolution Strategies, that they moved to
the United States to look at opening a California office of the firm.
He has received accolades for his work and philanthropy, and in 2004
he was named one of New Brunswick's 21 leaders of the 21st century.
And he also smokes pot.

"On the weekends or in the evening, after the kids are in bed, I'll
choose to enjoy a little bit of cannabis just like my wife might have
a glass of wine," Riedle explained.

Thus began Civilized. Riedle had the idea for the digital magazine
that night, on Jan. 24, 2015. Nine months later, the site was live.
The site aims to "elevate cannabis culture" by providing news and
entertainment to a more sophisticated cannabis user.

As the Canadian federal government moves toward legalizing
recreational marijuana use in 2017, the demographic of a settled,
sophisticated cannabis user has opened up. But so has the market vying
for that audience's attention.

At least five new print magazines have launched in the past three
years, including MG and The Clever Root. Civilized has joined their
ranks, but the challenge is to get noticed.

"What are they offering that you can't find any other place?" asked
Samir Husni, a professor at the University of Mississippi and the
self-proclaimed Mr. Magazine.

"For a few years, we had nothing but High Times and Skunk," Husni
explained. "Now, the more we see legalized marijuana … we've seen a
growth in these activities."

According to Civilized staff, the website averages more than one
million unique page views a month, up from just a few thousand when it
launched. More than 50 per cent of the audience is in the United
States, but Riedle sees the platform as "international." It covers
everything from politics to technology to lifestyle, a pseudo-Time for
the cannabis crowd.

Top articles this month range from how Canada's legalization of
marijuana might affect its relationship with the United States, to a
listicle titled "The 12 Strains of Christmas" (the strain known as
Permafrost is apparently helpful for those looking to de-stress).

Riedle hopes to expand the brand, venturing into television and
marketing partnerships, and he has expanded quickly to reach that
goal. There are six staff in the Venice office, and 13 at the head
office in Saint John.

Riedle even owns the office building in Saint John, living in a loft
on the top floor when he is visiting from the California hub, about a
week every month. "We like to say we live above the shop."

The Saint John office is in a heritage building, featuring exposed
brick walls and stark, modern lighting. The staff of writers,
videographers and social media experts have adorned their spaces with
cartoon characters and Mason jars of tchotchkes. There are couches and
bubble chairs, and in one editing room, a lonely looking Ping-Pong

While about half of the staff are self-proclaimed marijuana users (and
quick to point out that, in line with current legislation, they are
using the drug medicinally). The only nod to pot culture in the office
is one editor who walks around without shoes on.

No bowls of cheese puffs, no Rastafarian flags, no references to Bob
Marley. Over and over again, staff emphasize that while Civilized is
aimed at people who smoke marijuana, that's merely one facet of their

"This is a place that writes about cannabis, but none of us define
ourselves by cannabis use. It's just something we do," Riedle said.
"We are trying to develop the voice for motivated, productive people
who choose to consume cannabis, and our editorial is a reflection of
those people."

But this ethos is somewhat at odds with the magazine's content. Top
stories under the "Food" heading detail cannabis-infused coffee pods,
and a how-to on pairing joints with your favourite meals.

While cannabis is just one facet of a reader's life, a look at the
Civilized home page suggests it's a big facet. However, the subjects
of the articles - from gourmet meals to expensive home-growing
equipment - is on track with Riedle's data.

In April of 2015, Riedle hired Environics, a polling firm, and polled
people across North America. According to his data, the largest group
of people who are sparking up for the first time? Seniors.

"If you were to put a young teenager and a 45-year-old business
executive in front of me and asked me which one would be more likely
to be a cannabis user, I would bet on the clean-cut business person
every day," Riedle said with a chuckle. "Many people in this
demographic still remain in the cannabis closet, and we knew that we
would need to raise our voice and provide a bit more of a welcoming

As warm a welcome as they can provide, being a digital-only refuge
from the "cannabis closet" could be a challenge for the startup.

"[Marijuana] is still in some areas a taboo subject," Husni said. "A
printed magazine will always be safer for you to get and read, rather
than going online and telling the whole world you are a cannabis user."

But Riedle has some heavy hitters to help him avoid those pitfalls.
Former Vanity Fair publisher Mitchell Fox joined the board early on.
Fox was publishing director for Conde Nast Publications for 18 years,
and found himself charmed by the idea of Civilized.

"It was a beautiful site. Very well-edited, very well-written," Fox

Fox advises the Riedles on directions for the site, but he also has
his hand in the day-to-day operations, working with editors on
crafting stories.

"What makes a good cannabis story is not different from what makes
anything a good story," Fox said.

While Fox is not a cannabis user himself, he can't deny the growing
audience. "This new way of relaxing and enjoying ourselves is valuable
for people. My father used to have a martini after work, and now
people come home after a hard day of work and they have a puff or two
to relax."

Riedle hopes that with legalization on the way for Canada, the doors
will open for a more urbane, upscale stoner to emerge from the haze.
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MAP posted-by: Matt