Is cannabis culture finally going mainstream? As Colorado welcomes legal marijuana, The Denver Post has appointed a ‘weed editor’

The rest of the US – and the world – will be watching closely as the new law takes effect

Los Angeles

As two US states prepare for its legalisation on 1 January, there are signs that recreational marijuana has not just entered Colorado’s constitution, but also joined the cultural mainstream.

The Denver Post, by far the state’s most-read newspaper, has appointed its first marijuana editor to helm the coverage of legalisation, which the Post’s news director Kevin Dale described as “our biggest story in the coming year”.

Ricardo Baca, the paper’s former entertainment editor, has been tasked with overseeing a website devoted to cannabis. In a memo, Mr Dale said: “Ricardo will be working with editors and reporters in every department to ensure the site is lively, authoritative, in-depth, educational and packed with content spanning regulations to reviews.”

At the November 2012 election, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, rendering recreational marijuana legal. From next month, anyone aged 21 and over will be permitted to buy up to an ounce of weed for recreational use from one of the state’s selection of licensed retailers. Though cannabis remains illegal at a federal level, the Obama administration has signalled that it will allow legalisation to proceed in Colorado and Washington state, which has passed a similar law.

The rest of the US – and the world – will be watching closely as the new law takes effect. Talk-show host Jay Leno and the cast of Saturday Night Live have already joked about the Post’s new ‘weed editor’. In a Q&A on the newspaper’s website, Mr Baca said: “The reason this is all so ripe for national commentary is because we’re on the forefront of an international story. When recreational pot hits the Colorado streets… the drug will be more legal here than anywhere else in the world.”

Chris Simunek, editor-in-chief of the monthly cannabis magazine High Times, said, “Marijuana for so long has been something talked about under the table; it was a no-no on prime-time television. But now you’re seeing it taken seriously by a morning newspaper that anybody could pick up and thumb through. I think that’s a very positive step.”

Medical marijuana is now legal in 20 US states and Washington DC. CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, one of the most high-profile doctors in the US, recently came out in support its legalisation for medical use. “For years all the positive coverage of marijuana was in the underground press,” Mr Simunek said. “But now you’re seeing it in the above-ground press and on television.”

Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project and a pro-legalisation campaigner based in Denver, said that in the past the Post had been supportive of cannabis legalisation. “As support continues to grow for ending marijuana prohibition, there’s been more coverage of the issue than ever before,” Mr Tvert said. “There’s a need to ensure the information being conveyed is accurate and objective, so we hope the person who fills this new role will take an objective look at the issue and ensure that people are getting the facts and seeing the whole story.”

Under Mr Baca, the paper’s reporting of marijuana news will be broad. “We will cover weed in Colorado, on our state’s borders, in the US and beyond,” he said. The Post also plans to take on several freelance contributors, such as a cannabis reviewer and a “pot advice columnist”.

The newspaper’s human resources chief, Missy Miller, said staff on the marijuana beat would still be subject to the company’s drug and alcohol policy, and would be drug-tested if they appeared to be “impaired” while on the job. Asked if he was a weed smoker himself, Mr Baca replied: “I’ve covered concerts for a living over the last 15 years. That means hanging out with musicians, working with people in the industry, attending music festivals in Austin and the Coachella valley and New York and LA. So yes.”

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect