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‘The Cannabist’ Up In Smoke As Denver Post Guts Staff

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According to reports that sent shockwaves through the cannabis community on Friday, The Denver Post will no longer be staffing the paper’s popular marijuana vertical, The Cannabist.

Former staff writers and contributors expressed dismay over the surprise decision, with many arguing that demand for content focusing on marijuana issues is at an all-time high—and will continue to be increasingly relevant inside and outside of Colorado. Others mourned what they saw as the passing of a different kind of marijuana journalism, spearheaded by The Cannabist, which played a strong contributing role in legitimizing marijuana coverage in the mainstream press.

Behind-the-Scenes at The Cannabist

For the time being, journalist Alicia Wallace is the only remaining staff member at The Cannabist, Jake Browne, managing editor at Sensi Media and a former product reviewer for The Cannabist, told High Times. She’s expected to leave the paper for a fellowship in August, he added.

“If you’re not replacing staff when they leave, the site exists in name only,” Browne says. “You can call yourself the Denver Broncos, but if none of the players show up, it’s going to be a terrible game.”

In spite of the layoffs, The Cannabist will live on—albeit, in the form of aggregated content, or “bots,” as Browne tweeted Friday. But in the absence of staff reporters and editors dedicated to covering the beat, the fate of the pioneering site is yet to be seen.

The Fate of The Post’s Marijuana Vertical

One possible outcome for the site may be an outside purchase of the vertical by its founding editor, Ricardo Baca, who left The Post in December 2016. In a statement, Baca said that it was “devastating to have helped create a news and culture site that changed the way so many people, journalists included, talked about marijuana—and to watch it fall apart, especially now that legal cannabis is increasingly becoming the law of the land.”

He pinned blame on the staff layoffs on a hedge fund company, Alden Global Capital, which owns The Post’s parent company, Digital First Media.

“These vulture capitalists are literally hated throughout Denver, and while everyone from Gov. John Hickenlooper and May Michael Hancock stands in support of The Post, we need to continue to let Alden Global Capital know that they are not welcome in Colorado, and they need to sell The Denver Post to a more responsible owner who will finally curb this undemocratic bloodletting.”

Editorial staff at The Post was slashed in March, and members of its editorial board responded by publishing a piece that accused the hedge fund of dismantling local news coverage and “inevitably” causing a “reduction in quality [that] leads to a reduction of trust.”

What We Know About The Fate of ‘The Cannabist’

Shortly after Colorado became the first state in the United States to legalize recreational marijuana, The Denver Post built up a novel team of journalists to cover a beat that had been largely marginalized by mainstream press.

Though the company denies claims that the vertical is “dead,” former staff and marijuana insiders see editorial cuts at The Cannabist as further evidence that The Post’s hedge fund owners are failing readers by leaving content in the hands of automated aggregation tools, rather than journalists themselves.

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