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
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own