Colorado is the epicenter of legalized marijuana, and a documentary crew is tracking the progress through coverage of marijuana in The Denver Post and website The Cannabist. (Provided by Zachary Armstrong)

Documentary views legalization through lens of Post, Cannabist pot journalism

"Rolling Papers" is in production after kicking off with Colorado's recreational marijuana sales Jan. 1

We at The Denver Post and The Cannabist like to think we know a little about covering marijuana. Reporters John Ingold, Eric Gorski, Jeremy Meyer and many others have written on the news beat for years, and marijuana editor Ricardo Baca complements their coverage with a cultural journalistic approach.

We’ve made this commitment to pot coverage — on the positives and negatives of the industry — because Colorado is currently ground zero in the legalization movement. Voters legalized it in November 2012. Governor John Hickenlooper signed it into law that December. And on Jan. 1, 2014, the first legal recreational pot sales in the modern world happened.

On Jan. 1 — aka Green Wednesday, aka Opening Day — we had reporters as well as photographers positioned all over the state. Some of those reporters were being tailed by an independent documentary film crew, which captured the excitement and energy of a day that brought the world’s media to Colorado.

The Denver Documentary Collective first approached The Denver Post at the end of 2013 about making a film on the Pulitzer-winning news organization’s pot-rooted journalism and has been working on “Rolling Papers” ever since.

“All of these filmmakers are the real deal,” said Baca, The Post’s marijuana editor and founder of The Cannabist. “They pitched us on the idea, and we talked about it throughout the newsroom. We know journalism, and we expressed our needs; They know film making, and they expressed how compelling of a story is unfolding here.”

Documentary using Denver Post/Cannabist journalism to record new legalized era
Cannabist marijuana critic Jake Browne (Courtesy of Zachary Armstrong)

The “Rolling Papers” team is comprised of director Mitch Dickman; director of photography Zachary Armstrong; and producers Daniel Junge, Britta Erickson, Karl Kister, Alison Greenberg Millice and Katie Shapiro. Both Junge and Greenberg Millice won the Academy Award for best documentary short in 2012 for “Saving Face.” (Full disclosure: Shapiro is also a freelance writer for The Cannabist, which is independent of her affiliation with “Rolling Papers.”)


The Cannabist’s Ricardo Baca and Seattle Times pot reporter talk about marijuana journalism


“Working on ‘Convention’ in 2008 — a project in which Daniel was also a collaborator on — we took a similar approach to what we’re doing with ‘Rolling Papers’,” said producer Britta Erickson. “In 2010, myself, Daniel and Ali started shooting a medical marijuana concept documentary, which laid the groundwork for this project. And to have exclusive access to the newsroom and reporters of The Denver Post, who’s truly the authority on this subject, will enable us to give our audience a different side of what’s unfolding and how the culture is shifting here in Colorado.”

This feature documentary on cannabis culture in Colorado as told through The Denver Post and The Cannabist is currently in production and slated for completion in the fall of 2014.

You can stay up to date on “Rolling Papers,” a film by Listen Productions, on Facebook and Twitter as production continues. For more information on “Rolling Papers,” e-mail info@rollingpapersfilm.com.