Ricardo Baca is decidedly not stoned. Even though as the marijuana editor of The Denver Post and creator of the publication's The Cannabist blog, it's his job to try, know and research everything that has to do with weed. But he is a working man, and between an agreement with the newspaper to remain sober at work and his desire to stay productive, Baca doesn’t partake in even the tiniest sliver of weed-laden baked goods while on the job. These sort of standards are crucial for an industry that, in many states, remains illegal (so far, only Oregon and Washington have followed Colorado's lead to allow recreational cannabis use) and carries a lot of stereotypes. Such representations include wake and bake, the types of food weed smokers eat and the way professionals in the field really are. I met up with Baca in Cafe Mexico in Westminster, one of his childhood haunts that has one of the best green-chile-smothered breakfast burritos in the metro area. As we indulged in a hearty morning meal, he divulged what's it's like to be the first marijuana editor in the state, the nuances of wake and bake and what's for breakfast at his house.
Extra Crispy: So, is wake and bake really a thing?
Ricardo Baca: Oh yeah, it's undoubtedly a thing. I can't tell you how often I am talking to people in the community or the industry or I have someone on my talk show [The Cannabist Show] and they're like, Every morning, every afternoon, every night. I mean it's kind of an all day thing, especially for medical marijuana patients managing pain. But, among the recreational users, wake and bake is certainly a legitimate thing.
Is it something you enjoy?
With me, it's more rare because I can't work while inebriated or intoxicated. So wake and bake for me is probably a once a month thing. Certainly while camping, that's a tremendous kind of tradition. You wake up in the tent and as you're making your coffee over the camp stove, you have a 10-milligram edible. The rest of the day is gravy, and you don't have shit to accomplish anywhere, you don't have to get in the car and there is no reason to be sober. You just have to keep the fire going, collect wood, hang out with your friends and play some bocce and some corn hole. So yeah, wake and bake is a legit thing and I know lots of my friends do it everyday. I just have to do it less. I am not the kind of marijuana aficionado who can actually function and work while stoned. Plus it's an agreement I have with my employer, they ask me to be respectful of our product.
Let's talk about that, you are the first professional weed editor, well, ever. What's that like?
Everything we do we do [at The Denver Post and the Cannabist] is from a professional lens and a journalist perspective. We want to be legitimate, so everything we do has to be that way. And yes, I wanted protection. We still have a drug policy in our contract. If you test positive for any federally illegal drugs, that's grounds for firing. So when they first offered me this job that's when we had that conversation. I said I want protection and I don't want to be told one day that I can talk about my own use and preferences and someday that comes back to bite me. They said they won't test me as long as they don't have reason, and they don't expect me to use on work hours, which is understandable.
Did you partake in weed a lot before you started writing about it?
I never really got into weed until the regulated market started because I don't smoke, and the was primarily what was available. I tried pot brownies a couple times and I was like, Oh hell yes, if that was available all the time I would use that regularly. And now I do. But, being in the position I am in, I am trying to be extra respectful of the plant and its potency. I want to be responsible in everything that I do. I want to encourage people to also be responsible because this is still a newly legal substance and it's a psychoactive substance, and I want people, if they are going to try it, it want them to have good experiences and not overdo it.
As a pro, what would be the best type of pot to smoke in the morning?
So, I don't smoke at all. I primarily ingest edibles and sometimes do vaporizing. For me I enjoy a good sativa edible at all hours of the day. If I were to wake and bake, which again is just a once-a-month thing, it would definitely be a sativa simply because it would give me energy for the rest of the day, and the last thing I want is to be tired in the morning. [Indica strains, on the other hand, tend to give you a lolling body high that makes one sleepy.]
Do you make your own breakfast-style edibles?
You know, I haven't gotten into the making yet. I have been writing about weed now and editing stories for almost three years, and I just made my first cannabutter. It's such a giant pain in the ass, but we have a killer recipe on the Cannabist for making it. It came out beautiful, but I haven't touched it yet because I am terrified. I really want Melana [his wife] to make her banana bread with that butter, we have to find out the exact dosing amount first so we can have a slice and know we won't get too fucked up.
What does a typical breakfast in the Baca household look like?
One of the things we make most often is like a frittata with maybe broccoli and red onions or whatever is in the refrigerator. And Melana makes a great avocado toast with slivers or red onion and, if she is feeling extravagant, some slices of bacon on there. It's heavenly, oh my god it's heavenly.
How about when going out for breakfast? You picked this hole-in-the-wall joint as one of your favorites, why?
Cafe Mexico to my family is all about the green chile. We are those snobs you hear about, total pain-in-the-ass Colorado natives who are elitists about green chile. My mom and I won't eat at most Mexican restaurants in Denver because we think they have lazy green chile and they don't deserve our money. This is my favorite. My mom found this place hidden a block off any semi-major street, behind trees and on a random diagonal street. My mom told us about it and the minute she took us here we all [Baca's siblings] had the hand-held burrito and just found love.
When was that?
I was probably 15 or 16. There was a nice lady who worked here and her daughter was an underclassman at Westminster High School, it's three blocks from here and that's where I went. I had a crush on her daughter and yeah, we were just always here. It's closer than Taco Bell and the sub shop. And when you are in high school and you first have a car, it's a big deal. Instead of going to those places which were flooded by our fellow students we would just come here and hang out with all the painters and old timers and working class folk that would come to Cafe Mexico. It was kind of our little secret.