Growing up as a person of color from a working-class family, Ricardo Baca says that without a diversity-based scholarship to college and a paid internship at the Rocky Mountain News, he probably wouldn’t be in the position he is today.
“That transformed my life,” says the founder and CEO of the Grasslands cannabis marketing agency. “Being thrown into that mix … truly opened up possibilities for my career that would not have been there.”
The Denver native and son of indigenous and Irish parents enjoyed a 24-year career in journalism before founding Grasslands five years ago. During his time at The Denver Post, he became the first full-time marijuana editor at a major American newspaper, helping launch the online news site, The Cannabist.
Now he’s looking to help others in the same way he was helped, through Grasslands’ Diversity-in-Marketing Internship program, a paid internship (with a housing stipend) aimed at giving “historically underprivileged” communities the opportunity to not only learn about cannabis marketing, but gain real-world experience with the firm that represents Cookies, Willie’s Reserve and others.
“We looked at ourselves in the early day of the pandemic, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and we recognized we weren’t the agency we hoped to be,” he says. “We promised ourselves we were going to do something that changed the face of our agency and the industry we work in.”
This year’s recipients will be the second cohort of the internship program which last year went to two young men of color, one of whom is currently still a senior in college while the other was hired on full-time at Grasslands.
“I remember how meaningful my internship at the Rocky Mountain News was,” Baca says, noting that his company and the industry are better served with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives. “We learned from my experience.”