Ricardo Baca launched The Cannabist in late 2013 as editor-in-chief. (Denver Post file)

Editor-in-chief Ricardo Baca says farewell to The Cannabist

Ricardo Baca, who became the first marijuana editor for a mainstream news organization three years ago, announced Thursday he is resigning as editor-in-chief of The Cannabist to pursue other business interests.

The Denver Post will conduct a national search to replace him.

“Regardless of this news of my departure, The Cannabist is moving forward,” Baca said this week on The Cannabist Show, a weekly talk show and podcast he’s hosted for nearly 100 episodes.

“I expect very, very good things from this show, this website, this staff in the years to come.”

Ricardo Baca
Ricardo Baca launched The Cannabist in late 2013 as editor-in-chief. (Denver Post file)

The Cannabist launched in the last week of 2013, just ahead of the start of Colorado’s historic recreational marijuana sales. Its coverage of legalization issues and cannabis culture across America and the globe┬áhas since gained a national audience.

Baca steered coverage of the legal era with investigative pieces that shed light on the burgeoning cannabis industry and how it is regulated by state and local officials, including problems with the potency of edibles, concerns about the use of pesticides in commercial grows and an in-depth look at some of Colorado’s biggest cannabis entrepreneurs. He also wrote extensively on changing cultural norms.

“Ricardo had a vision for what The Cannabist ought to be — how it should blend news coverage with coverage of the marijuana culture, reflecting that the drug was now legal in Colorado. It seems like an obvious idea now, three years later, but back then it took imagination and foresight. Ric has both those qualities and many, many more,” Denver Post Editor Lee Ann Colacioppo said.

“I’m going to miss him terribly but I’m also excited for what lies ahead.”

The Denver Post appointed Baca as marijuana editor in November 2013 after he had spent 12 years as a music critic and entertainment editor, and charged him with the development of a website that would be dedicated to covering news and culture surrounding marijuana legalization.

For Baca, exploring the cultural conversation around legalization and the pursuit of objective cannabis journalism were key aspects of The Cannabist’s mission.

“There will be messes, and we’ll be there to cover them. There will be triumphs, and we’ll cover those as well,” Baca said in a November 2013 interview. “As journalists, it’s one of the greatest stories you could ever ask for.”

Much has happened in the wake of the modern world’s first legal recreational marijuana sales in January 2014. The cannabis industry is projected to generate $7.4 billion in revenue this year. After four more states approved adult-use legalization in last month’s elections, nearly a quarter of Americans will live in a state that allows recreational marijuana. Interest in cannabis news has grown in equal measure; The Cannabist set a record in November with more than 1.2 million unique visitors, according to analytics firm comScore.

Under Baca’s tenure, The Cannabist received national and local journalism awards, including a 2015 honor from the Online News Association for topical reporting (shared with The Denver Post), and a 2015 first-place award from the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for general website excellence, among others.

Baca, who said he is pursuing an opportunity with a start-up that is currently operating in “stealth mode,” plans to continue serving as a contributing editor for The Cannabist.

“I want to ensure that The Cannabist is on track to grow,” Baca said, noting the site this month has added two full-time employees, one to bolster content production and another to work with advertising clients.

“As we’ve grown and as others have joined us in the pursuit of legitimate fact-based journalism on marijuana, legalization and beyond, we’ve proved the need for such an outlet,” Baca said. “While I’m moving on, my colleagues at The Cannabist are doubling down on this very important work … I certainly cannot wait to see where 2017 takes all of us.”