I am Ricardo Baca, editor of The Cannabist. After 12 years as The Denver Post's music critic and a couple more as the paper's entertainment editor, I was tapped to become The Post's first ever marijuana editor and create The Cannabist in late-2013. I also founded music blog Reverb and co-founded music festival The UMS.

My proof.

Comments: 273 • Responses: 25  • Date: 

hashmon64 karma

Ricardo, what's with "Marijuana and Teens" article you ran? It reads like a totally unbalanced hit piece against weed placed by Kevin Sabet under the auspices of a warning to teenagers. It contains some factual inaccuracies, as well. Many studies have actually shown that cannabis in moderation does not harm the lungs, for one thing. And the writer didn't seem to actually look at the evidence around cannabis and driving, which shows a very mixed picture, not at all that driving while moderately high is dangerous. It's an extremely one-sided article, and it doesn't seem to have much to do with teens, even though that's the title. What's up wit that? Everything else you guys have put out so far has been great.

ricardobaca19 karma

Hey, all. Sorry about that. I answered all the up-voted questions from 10 a.m.-noon MT today (my original plan) and then got back to work. (It's day three of legal pot here, and ISH IS BUSY.) But I'll come back in the next few days to answer some more questions - and talk some about my colleague Suzanne's pot-and-teens story. But now I'm out; I'll be on CNN tonight, if anybody's happy houring at home on a Friday night. :)

Sconnors1328 karma

Why does the AP ('marijuana' is in the handbook) and the industry still use the word Marijuana and not Cannabis? Cannabis is a bit more palatable, no?

I've brought it up in the newsroom I work in and some of the older editors look at me like I'm crazy. Being the first legitimate Cannabis beat writer/editor do you think the AP should make a change?

ricardobaca34 karma

We thought about this early on, and I've talked about it at length with our copy chief. Certainly many folks in the industry would prefer us to us the word 'cannabis' over 'marijuana.' And while 'marijuana' once had a negative connotation ('20s-'30s), we're confident using it interchangeably with cannabis (and a host of other names) because marijuana is the word in the Colorado state constitution and the majority of business names throughout the state. I don't think 'marijuana' has the stigma it once did, so I don't feel a change needs to be made at AP.

holodog22 karma

So, when the word came down that your employer was in need of a pot editor, did everyone in the office kinda look at you?

ricardobaca20 karma

I've not been asked that question in the last six weeks - kudos! But no. I don't think I'm seen as the paper's resident weed-culture expert. (At least, I don't think ... ) But I do take pride in living a full life and count myself lucky enough to be surrounded by a variety of truly amazing people from all walks of life. I was very familiar with the community, and I still have so much to learn. I'm thoroughly thrilled at the opportunity. :)

DoubleBarrelBong21 karma

Are you at all related to Moses Baca, one of the first two people arrested (in Colorado, incidentally) under the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937?

Shambloroni6 karma

That would blow my mind.

ricardobaca5 karma

Tell me about it.

ricardobaca2 karma

Ha. The thought has crossed my mind. But not that I know of.

Abnormalmind10 karma

The sin tax going to public education seems insincere as many states reduce education funding by an amount equal to the new revenue source. Does Colorado have a provision that prevents this from happening?

ricardobaca5 karma

It's a good question, but I'm not familiar with the ins/outs of local education funding. As you'll see here (http://bit.ly/Jss6Qz), though: "The first $40 million generated by the state excise tax (on recreational marijuana) will go toward school construction."

theworkingtitle8 karma

So, you can't smoke in public, far as I have read. What about concerts? Indoor/outdoor? If I went to a show at Red Rocks or an indoor venue, how will that be handled? Traditionally, those are places where people were already smoking mostly openly, so I am curious what it will be like now.

ricardobaca10 karma

It's fully illegal in all of those places. And it has been illegal for decades, but it's been mostly tolerated - something I saw often as the paper's music critic for 12 years. There's still confusion on how it will be handled now that recreational pot shops are open, but this offers more insight: http://bit.ly/1lFiYEb

bellsy4 karma

Hoping you're still reading and composing answers, and that you take on this one. Red Rocks, in particular, has been extremely friendly to smokers for as long as I can remember, but I'm curious if you expect that to change now.

ricardobaca3 karma

I don't expect it to change, no. Back to the same story: http://bit.ly/1lFiYEb This quote in particular: “But officers use their discretion when there’s the odor of marijuana at a concert venue, and a lot of (the law) isn’t clear right now. We’re starting from scratch.” That comes from Sgt. Steve Warneke, a Denver Police Department spokesman.

daclamp6 karma

Loved you on Colbert. How do you think this will change drug testing for both employment and DUI?

ricardobaca4 karma

Thanks. Colbert is a mad comedic genius. I don't think the legalization will change anything from the drug testing perspective. As far as the weed-DUIs, I do think it'll be an ongoing story. Some say the current method of testing to see if somebody is driving high is imperfect. This column by Westword's excellent pot critic William Breathes is a fascinating look at those concerns: http://bit.ly/1lFhcCV

daneblade6 karma

Assuming that smoking pot is part of you job how does your company handle health insurance for you? Do they pick up the extra cost of the "smoker tax" that most plans these days are moving to. What about drug tests or arrests? If you got a DUI (alcohol or marijuana) would they treat you different that other employees?

ricardobaca20 karma

Smoking pot isn't part of the job. It's not mandatory, and I don't smoke - anything. I do eat pot from time to time, though. And it makes for an interesting line to walk. Drug tests: The Post will test any employee if given reason to. (Coming in to the office stoned, what not.) I've been there for 12 years sans a drug test, and I don't plan on giving them a reason while serving as the paper's marijuana editor. If I got a DUI, I would be treated the same as anybody else.

Don_Machetazo5 karma

Interesting. I'm surprised that you don't 'sample the goods' so to speak to offer critiques and such. That leads me to conclude that your job is more focused on covering the legal issues surrounding the legalization process rather than reviewing stores/products/etc. Is that accurate?

ricardobaca5 karma

Almost accurate. I'm a content-producing editor primarily. So while I will write stories, I'm not our pot critic. We have a couple of those already. Here's Jake Browne's first review (his second will be up later today, on some edibles): http://bit.ly/1lF8uoi And here's Brittany Driver's first: http://bit.ly/1lF8AMF As for the 'legal' question, we've had an amazing team in place covering the news of pot for years, and that team is built around the rock that is John Ingold. Dude's been covering it since the dispensary boom in 2009, and he's the authority. They hired me to incorporate the already excellent work John and our news side colleagues are already doing into a culture-of-cannabis website that just launched a few days ago here: http://www.thecannabist.co/ The Cannabist is the home to all of The Post's culture coverage, including recipes, reviews, profiles, entertainment, advice columns and such.

moonshyne271 karma

Have you ever smoked pot? How does it compare to edibles?

ricardobaca13 karma

I have. It's an instant high, whereas edibles take an hour or so to kick in. It's a different kind of high, too. Both are lovely, but I don't like smoke of any kind (unless I'm sitting around a campfire in the Rockies).

Seruphim53885 karma

Since it's been a couple days now, have there been any glaring issues that need to be looked at immediately?

ricardobaca6 karma

Here's The Post's story from today's paper: http://bit.ly/Knbf2o People are still speculating about supply, and at least one shop has limited the amount it's selling to customers. (They can sell an ounce to in-staters and a quarter to out-of-staters, but they chose to only sell an eighth to the folks waiting in line in hopes of their supplies lasting longer.)

BlackbeltJones3 karma

Why did it take so long for the Denver Post to kick into gear with a marijuana column? Sure, the DP Editorial Board has come out in opposition to every piece of Colorado's drug reform legislation, but at the same time, a sizable chunk of the paper over the last 3-4 years has been devoted to marijuana coverage.

ricardobaca18 karma

The Post is a mainstream daily newspaper. Marijuana has been legal recreationally for about a year, and in that time The Post has stepped up to write the occasional story on growing cannabis at home (in the home/garden sections), cooking with marijuana (in the food section), discerning the local laws surrounding pot smoke (or vapor or edibles) inside rock and comedy clubs (in the arts sections). Like any entity, the state government included, we at The Post had to get used to the fact that this drug was now recreationally legal - not unlike wine or beer. And with the opening of retail pot shops, my editors knew it was time to cover weed as vigorously on the cultural side as we do on the news side. So you could say it took us a while. But you could also say that we're breaking new ground few daily newspapers have rocked before.

Sconnors134 karma

Has the Post been able to gage its readership for Marijuana coverage?

ricardobaca8 karma

Pot stories consistently rank among the top stories on denverpost.com. Opening traffic for thecannabist.co has surpassed expectations. One of the things I've learned in the last few months: Even the biggest stoners care about all the news surrounding this. They might be 'jobless and living in their mom's basement in the suburbs' (their words, not mine), but they're up on the differences in law between Colorado and Washington state and Uruguay. In fact, their curiosity inspired some of our stories on The Cannabist, including this one: Five ways Uruguay’s marijuana law is more liberal than Colorado’s, and one way it's not: http://bit.ly/1lFbEZe

IdRatherBeLurking1 karma

But the ground you're breaking is ground you refused to stand on...I don't see why the Post deserves any recognition for this.

ricardobaca11 karma

Ground we refused to stand on? If you're referring to previous editorials, I'll reiterate that the editorial section is separate from the rest of the newspaper.

usavaeka6 karma


ricardobaca4 karma

Editorial boards aren't connected to newsrooms, for the uninitiated. So we have little contact with the folks on the board. That said, it's also worth a reminder that the governor of Colorado and mayor of Denver were opposed to Amendment 64. A good bit on John Hickenlooper and Michael Hancock not attending opening day on Jan. 1: http://bit.ly/1lFaRr3 Another on their "quiet" acknowledgement of the big day: http://bit.ly/1lFb8dM

trevdordurden3 karma

Where do you see the pot industry going in the next 5-10 years?

ricardobaca8 karma

More states going medical. More states most likely going recreational. And a whole lot of pressure on those states (Colorado included) and the federal government combined. Banking comes to mind as an issue that is demanding a certain amount of attention right now.

baby_bomb_squad3 karma

Do you think in the future (5-10 years from now) the quality of cannabis in Colorado would go down in favor of higher tax revenues?

ricardobaca3 karma

That doesn't make sense to me, though I'm not expert on the quality of the weed here in Colorado. What I know: Colorado product is mostly praised by people here who know. Out-of-staters agree, and I found this story SO FASCINATING: http://bit.ly/1lFfp0F - with this perspective: "It's already got a reputation in Oklahoma because of how strong it is," Mark Woodward, the spokesman for Oklahoma's Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, said of Colorado marijuana. "No question, the more access you have, the more demand you're going to have for this." All that said, I would guess that with more shops selling recreational weed, the higher the quality. People are discerning and will stop going somewhere if they think they're getting shorted - and they will frequent businesses with significantly higher prices if they view their product as superior.

serenidade2 karma

I'm curious about this as well. My understanding is that Colorado's laws include a fair amount of oversight of anyone growing pot for sale to others. In many ways the regulations make it tougher on "small time" growers, and almost demand a certain scale in order to ensure profitability. This leads to practices like machine-trimming, etc., which do have an impact on quality, essentially turning it into just another industrial crop.

So a related question would be: do you think more people will end up growing their own, or depending on dispensaries?

ricardobaca8 karma

We're very curious about this question. We're 2.5 days into legalization already, and we're hearing quite a bit from readers on the price of recreational weed - "It's more than my dealer charges!" and such. For some, they'll pay more so it's legal. Others will stay in the black market. No doubt more people in Colorado will be growing than before, since it's legal to grow six plants per person/12 per household.

tigerman203 karma


ricardobaca3 karma

It's impossible to say on the first question. It will surely have an impact on the long-term, but what will that impact be? On the second question, it somewhat depends on the rollout that's happening right now. So far it's been "peaceful, respectful, mellow" (http://bit.ly/Knbf2o), and those photos/videos of the relaxed and happy lines outside these pot shops could very well prove to be powerful pieces of future legalization legislation. All that could also change with one person with ill intentions, as we saw at last year's 4/20 rally in Denver: http://bit.ly/1lFer4q

Amyrmaid2 karma

how are employers reacting to this change-are they changing their drug testing policies?

ricardobaca2 karma

I love this question, mainly because it's so complex. So marijuana is illegal federally. But it's legal in Colorado. But your Colorado employer can still fire you for a positive drug test, something that's been upheld in Colorado court: http://bit.ly/1lF7noE You'll also see in that story that many employers don't drug test and don't plan on changing that anytime soon.

Flying_Dutchmann0 karma

Do they do drugtests where you work?

ricardobaca3 karma

They do. See daneblade's question.