Weed: A growing beat

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Weed, pot, marijuana, grass, ganja, cannabis.

Whatever you call it, covering it may be the fastest growing beat in America.

At least that’s what participants said at the ONA panel, “Getting Into the Weed: Launching a Successful Niche Digital Media Product,” organized & moderated by , co-founder of

Cannabis became legal in Colorado in 2014

“You don’t have to know the plant, be an expert or even use it, you just have to be a journalist,” said Ricardo Baca, marijuana editor for the Denver Post/The Cannabist.

After the legalization of marijuana was approved by Colorado voters in 2012, reporting on weed became a hot topic to the point that in 2013, the Denver Post hired Baca as its first marijuana editor. Baca’s beat has set the groundwork for news organizations looking to launch their own pot beat.

“Once it’s legal, it’s big business,” said NowThis editor Sarah Frank.

Josiah M. Hesse, who is a journalist for the Cannabist, said he is respected by his local peers but national respect can be hard to come by.

“Most journalists I know are from Denver. They respect my job and see me as a journalist, however from the national standpoint, some don’t,” Hesse said. “Medical marijuana has helped grow the respect for pot reporting though. Now there are journalists winning journalism awards for stories on pot. Things are looking up.”

Residents of Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will go to the polls this November to vote on whether their state will allow recreational marijuana use, opening up a potential door for pot beat writing to grow across the nation.

John Wenzel, a writer for The Cannabist, said cannabis coverage can only grow.

“I believe that pot beat writing will grow eventually,” Wenzel said. “Denver is special, some states are more conservative than others and won’t see any point.”

“People are interested in pot and are interested in learning about it. Writing about weed isn’t just smoking in your college dorm, and writing an article,” Wenzel said.