Denver Post hires pot editor,now looks for cannabis critics

Baca's newly created post became rich fodder for comedy writers and the media.

Written by New York Times | Published: December 15, 2013 5:03 am

Newspaper editors typically operate behind the scenes,overseeing reporters inside the newsroom and outside the spotlight.

But since Ricardo Baca was named the marijuana editor of The Denver Post last month,he has been celebrated across the globe. He has appeared on CNN and The Colbert Report. Long-lost high school acquaintances have surfaced,with one inviting him to his friend’s basement for a smoke. Emails have flooded in from freelancers and readers,offering expertise on the subject matter.

“We’re taking an extremely credible,professional approach to this,” Baca said. “I was surprised that it was such an immediate punch line.”

Baca’s newly created post became rich fodder for comedy writers and the media. On Saturday Night Live,an anchor on Weekend Update noted,“The Denver Post this week announced that they’re looking for a marijuana editor for their website. They have one. They’re just looking for him.” Stephen Colbert on his show asked Baca,“Are you a cop?” The website Mediabistro posted the job opening and encouraged applicants to “Roll up those résumés”. The British media gushed over the news,with The Independent calling the gig “arguably the best job in journalism” while The Guardian exclaimed “Brilliant Denver!”.

But The Denver Post is taking its marijuana coverage seriously. On January 1,Colorado will become one of two states to legalise the sale of recreational marijuana. And other states,countries are watching. Gregory L Moore,The Post’s editor,says that has meant the newsroom has been tasked with “an-all-hands-on-deck assignment” to cover the history of marijuana regulation,the reaction of federal agents to the new law,and a look at the science.

“It’s going to affect politics,culture,crime,food,” Moore said. “The world is going to be watching us and we really want to do a great job on this story.”

A recent article in the paper covered a debate inside Denver’s City Council over whether residents can smoke in their yards. Another looked at the drug as a cooking ingredient.

Baca,36,a former music and entertainment editor,grew up in the Denver area and has worked at The Post for 12 years. His new job,he said,will go far beyond chronicling Colorado’s stoner culture. He has been in contact with journalists abroad,exploring how the state’s new laws compare with those in other countries,like the Netherlands,where recreational drug use is illegal yet tolerated. He has also been in contact with reporters in Washington,the other state that has legalised marijuana use,to potentially work with.

As soon as he was named to the post,he acknowledged using marijuana. “If I weren’t completely honest from the get-go,we lose credibility,” said Baca,who recently became engaged to his girlfriend while vacationing in Bali.

Baca is in the process of hiring a staff and has reviewed 70 résumés for the position of pot critic. He has also discussed with his colleagues whether the title on his business card should read Cannabis Editor or Marijuana Editor.

CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY

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