The Cannabist: The History of the Cannabis-Centric Publication
Where does the everyday American turn to for news? Magazines, newspapers, major media, and more often than not, social media. What is generally covered in the news and media? In today’s culture, it is a mix of negative political headlines and what the latest cultural icon is wearing.
Along with this reporting, if marijuana is ever reported on it is from a negative perspective. As marijuana becomes legalized it is essential that the industry is held accountable as well as being discussed from a neutral to positive standpoint. This is just what The Denver Post thought the American people needed which led them to develop, The Cannabist, a vertical that focused on unbiased news regarding marijuana but also brought ideas, food, art, people, and news together.
What is The Cannabist?
With the growth of legalized marijuana The Denver Post and Ricardo Baca, The Cannabist editor, realized early on that enthusiasts should get their cannabis news from sources other than law enforcement and mainstream news outlets. This recognition led to the development of The Denver Post’s vertical addition, The Cannabist.
With the creation of a positive cannabis centered news column, the marijuana culture began to change. The vertical quickly became the golden child of the cannabis industry’s news sources. It was a place for cannabis enthusiasts could turn for unbiased information, fun highlights, gear, and recipes just to name a few things.
It was the inaugural site to bring this source of information mainstream. In a time where the industry was rocky at best, The Cannabist delivered some stability and legitimacy.
The column started to receive limited support from the Denver Post in 2016 and by 2018 it has been left unstaffed to be run by bots. This may not be the end of the vertical, however, investors may see the benefit to having a column that discusses and reports on marijuana from a legitimate standpoint.
The Cannabist Editorial Style
The Cannabist was unlike any other vertical in its time. It was not simply a place to turn to for pot recipes or jokes, but it was a legitimate news providing entity. What set The Cannabist apart was the fact that they had reporters in high profile places and it was located in the newsroom. So real, legitimate reporting was being done and they had access to the most breaking news.
In an age where style matters The Cannabist wrote from a journalistic viewpoint, not tabloid gossip in nature. The vision of The Cannabist was to reach everyday people with news along with cannabis talk. With a laid-back and welcoming tone, The Cannabist wished to bring humor, debates, reviews, art, and more to the forefront of cannabis culture.
The Cannabist legitimized marijuana news in a culture that was just beginning to accept it’s legalization.
The Cannabist: Then and Now
The life of The Cannabist had extreme highs and lows. Being touted with dreams of doubling in staff size only to face major layoffs it was eventually halted and resorbed. Baca expresses how the site received very little support and was only fully staffed for 15 months, therefore, never having been given the opportunity to become what it could have been.
On the other side of the coin executives, and Baca to an extent agreed that in 15 months the cite should have been able to be self-sustaining. Today the cite merely exists as an unstaffed entity within the post. Reporters from other departments will occasionally provide material, but it is primarily supported by stories pitched by readers.
How it All Began
In 2012 the State of Colorado received significant attention as it became one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. It did not take The Denver Post long to realize this significant event created a market to be tapped into, the news. At this point, there were no media outlets or reporting on marijuana use from a recreational standpoint. No place for partakers to find gear, equipment, or information on their pastime.
As with any hobby or interest, there should be a place to find information and the latest developments. The Cannabist was born from this desire. The Denver Post placed Ricardo Baca, the former music editor, was placed as the site’s founding editor.
The Golden Years
At its height, The Cannabist saw greater traffic than High Times, a popular website and magazine. In 2015 and 2016 The Cannabist hosted two 4/20 events along with awards at The Cannabis Convention. Within two years after its onset, Baca was able to grow this segment of The Denver Post to seven employees.
To its credit, The Cannabist changed the way most people saw marijuana, journalists alike. In 2018 The Associated Press made the announcement that it will enlist a group of reporters dedicated to writing and reporting on marijuana and its legalization.
Near the end of 2016, the column began to see a decline. Baca saw the writing on the wall when instead of doubling its staff only one part-time worker was promoted to full time. This was counter to what Baca had been discussing with executives.
It is difficult to say whether the decline came from lack of support or if the lack of support was a result of the decline. However, it is known that most of the readers were located in California. This led to talks of moving the segment to that area. This could have led to the eventual decline of The Cannabist.
2018 Cannabist Staff Layoff
The layoffs actually started with a promotion, as mentioned previously. A part-time worker was promoted to full time in November of 2016. However, Baca saw this as a red flag and eventually left in January 2017. By March 2017 Baca started a new company, Grassroots, where the site’s producers eventually parted ways to join as well.
The general manager, Brad Bogus was gone by May of the same year. The sites two salespeople were placed back in the general sales department.
Layoffs were quiet until April of this year (2018) when forced layoffs by Alden Capital, the owner of Digital First Media’s taking the company from 100 to 70 employees. This led to the editor and top reporter both being laid off as well. The remaining staff was transferred to The Denver Post’s entertainment site, The Know, which Baca had been responsible for developing prior.
What’s The Future of The Cannabist?
It is undeniable that The Cannabist made great strides in the cannabis arena. The site aided in changing viewpoints of users as well as journalists alike. Because of this investment in cannabis culture and normalizing it among the US, it can only be hoped that the site will be resurrected.
The Cannabist can continue to provide the quality reporting on the latest in cannabis, but not if it is left to be merely automated and unkempt. Baca knows this more than most.
Ricardo Baca And The Possible Acquisition of The Cannabist
As mentioned previously, Ricardo Baca was the original editor of The Cannabist. Because of his close ties to the beginning of this column, Baca felt loyalty to the brand even after leaving The Denver Post. So when it was reported that The Denver Post was downgrading it peaked his interest.
The news was made public around April 27thof this year that the site was closing its doors to generically run. It would seem that Baca, who had led the development of The Cannabist from its onset, cannot let that happen. Baca has stated that he has worked hard to find investors in The Cannabist to keep it from closing its doors completely. He knows the good the site has done and can continue to do if given the support, funding, and time to do so.
Baca has generated “3 different buckets” of potential investors. These investors range from those in the cannabis industry, companies not in the industry, and major media companies. It may be a huge feat if Baca is able to acquire The Cannabist due to his vocal disdain for the hedge fund over it. Either way, Baca wants for The Cannabist to have a second chance.
What’s Your Move?
With the potential for such an important cannabis news site to be resurrected will it gain supporters? Were you familiar with this site when it was at its height? Or were you apart of its following in the lows? Or maybe you are just hearing about The Cannabist but you are intrigued. Where ever you are on the spectrum it is sure that The Cannabist would appreciate your support. Not only that, but you will gain a great deal of information and insights into the latest in cannabis news.
Whether The Cannabist will return is yet to be determined. With the great strides it was making in the world and news of cannabis we know that if it does return the cannabis industry will be better because of it.