George Zimmer and Ricardo Baca at the Grasslands Launch Party.

Photos: Grasslands Launch Party brings out 300-plus friends, raises more than $800 for wildfire victims at New West Summit

By Grasslands Staff

The Grasslands Launch Party celebrated the debut of journalist Ricardo Baca’s new content agency during New West Summit 3.0 on Oct. 13 in Oakland, California.

More than 300 party people—including cannabis business executives rubbing shoulders with budtenders, investors, journalists and even Men’s Wearhouse founder George Zimmer (seen above with Ricardo)—gathered at the Oakland Cannabis Creative to celebrate the debut of Grasslands, a journalism-minded content agency dedicated to supporting cannabis businesses and executives.

Learn more about Grasslands’ services here.

Days before the party, Baca announced that he would donate all of the bar’s tips to relief efforts supporting cannabis growers in areas impacted by the historic wildfires ravaging much of Northern California. And thanks to the kindness of the attendees and our hard-working staff and sponsors, Baca handed over $829 in cash to our charitable partners at the East Bay Canna Community, whose fundraising totals topped the $12,000 mark, according to the organization’s executive director Joanna Arenstein.

“The response from our community was immediate,” Arenstein wrote on East Bay Canna Community’s Facebook page. “The money will be donated to local organizations such as the California Growers Association fire relief fund and other local, reputable charities around Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Santa Rosa.”

Grasslands’ launch party was held during New West Summit 3.0, one of the largest cannabis business expos in the U.S. and a leading venue for cannabis investors. Baca served as the emcee for New West Summit 3.0 and conducted Q&As with the event’s keynotes including entrepreneur Richard Branson, musician George Clinton and futurist Jason Silva.

Here’s a snapshot of the Grasslands Launch Party. See yourself or any friends in here? Tag away on our Facebook album. (All photos by Evan Thompson for Grasslands: A Content Agency for Cannabis.)

Executives are turning to thought leadership marketing as an effective business development tool.

What is thought leadership marketing? Three tips to becoming a respected thought leader and industry influencer

By Grasslands Staff

“What is thought leadership marketing?” This is a common refrain that we hear from our clients at Grasslands as more executives pivot toward thought leadership as a strategic content marketing and business development tool.

Becoming a thought leader is grueling work. Climbing to the top of your industry and being a trusted leader among your peers requires innovative ideas, a deep well of knowledge about your industry, a vast network of influencers and an audience who has come to rely on your insights.

But the effort is well worth it for aspiring thought leaders. As trust in the media and government continues to stagnate, more people are turning to business leaders for sage advice. Technical experts were rated as the most credible spokespeople, according to the global results of the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer.

There is no single path (or shortcut) to becoming an industry influencer, but there are several tools every executive can fill their arsenal with. Most importantly, a thought leader is a content generator who has something important to say.

Success won’t happen overnight, but embracing these strategies will help you cut through the noise. And rememberpractice makes perfect.

Find your voice

Thought leaders are held up as experts in their respective fields of interest. Step outside of that knowledge base, and an influencer can risk going up in flames.

It’s imperative to begin rooting your thought leadership marketing in a niche. Develop yourself as a subject matter expert. Start small and dominate that niche. Once you’ve established yourself, work your way into a larger niche. Play and repeat. Soon, people will be turning to you for expert insights and advice.

Most importantly, people don’t want to listen to the same old humdrum. Be innovative and bold. Have something new to say. Make big (educated) predictions, and don’t be afraid to disrupt traditional thinking.

Thought leadership requires strong personal branding

Don’t be fooled: Personal branding isn’t about you or some delusion of grandeur; it’s about delivering value to others and publicly establishing your credibility.

Developing a successful personal brand means finding your strengths and effectively communicating them to your audience. The secret: know thyself. Know what makes you great, what differentiates you from your peers and what unique promise of value you offer.

Like any successful business, your personal brand should center its identity around these points of interest:

  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Values
  • Strengths
  • Goals

After an identity is established, you can begin positioning yourself (and your personal brand) as a highly visible and indispensable source of thought leadership.

Network, network, network

Now that you’re rooted in a niche, connect with influencers in your industry who can help you grow professionally as well as expand your audience reach. Get involved in industry trade groups, workshops, conferences and online networking groups.

Network with industry colleagues, peers, influencers and potential mentors who can solidify your credibility and lift you up as a thought leader. Don’t just swap business cards; make sure to link up digitally. These are the people who will listen to and admire your insight. There’s no simple way to network; get out there and take action.


What is thought leadership marketing? If you are ready to take your thought leadership marketing to the next level, Grasslands can assess your unique strengths and strategically position your brand for high visibility. Contact our agency here.

Story behind the story: That time I interviewed Willie Nelson on his tour bus

By Ricardo Baca, Grasslands

In October 2016, my producer and I set off to San Diego, Calif., with one goal in mind: To capture the most complete history on record of Willie Nelson and his famed relationship with cannabis and hemp.

The result of that trip: This fun and expansive interview with Willie, including a short video of he and I talking on his tour bus, the Honeysuckle Rose.

The prep for that interview was daunting. As some of you know, I was the music critic for The Denver Post for more than a dozen years, but in that time I never secured facetime with the red-headed stranger. So as I began to cull questions for my time with Willie — some of which were crowd-sourced via friends on social media — I had to make a decision.

Was I staying true to my mission and only asking him about marijuana, even though Willie is one of America’s most important songwriting treasures? Or would I cave and throw a couple music questions in there?

I’ll always remember the look on Willie’s face when I started the interview by telling him I wasn’t going to ask him about his music. I could tell he thought it was a bold decision, but his alert eyes also seemed to encourage my prying questions about his personal cannabis history.

Read the full story, and watch the video, at The Cannabist.

Growing pains: Why most of California’s cannabis industry isn’t ready to go legal

By Ricardo Baca, Grasslands

Thinking back to October 2016, the world knew California voters would say yes to recreational cannabis, a.k.a. Proposition 64, because nearly every single legitimate poll pointed to the measure passing.

While there were eight other legalization measures on state ballots that November, California’s was the biggest of the lot — because of the state’s rich history with marijuana, because of the state’s status as America’s first medical cannabis market, because the state is the most populous in the U.S. and home to one of the largest economies (cannabis or non-cannabis) in the world.

And so I planned three trips to California in the two months leading up to the vote. I wanted to understand the proponents and the opposition, from the 420-friendly Emerald Triangle in the north to the 420-forgotten San Diego in the south. And the most surprising take-away from those three trips: Holy cow, most of these nice folks have no idea what is about to hit them.

I couldn’t help but feel like a prude as I spoke with so many of these business owners. Here I was, coming from the oldest regulated cannabis market in the world: Colorado. And here they were, in the true Wild West, in a land where a vastly unregulated medical marijuana economy allowed growers and their partners to easily (and illegally) ship their massive harvests to prohibitionist states where the paydays dwarfed anything local dispensaries would pay.

Even now as California regulators are writing regulations for the state’s medical and retail markets, it’s still illegal to traffic cannabis across state lines. Yet when I spoke to some of these growers, they talked about adhering to the new laws and regulations — while still admitting that a majority of their harvest would still land in Texas and Michigan. When I asked Lincoln Fish, CEO of OutCo Labs and the man behind one of San Diego County’s licensed dispensaries, about some of his colleagues’ unpreparedness, he understood exactly what I’d been seeing.

“They are just terrified that their black market/gray market businesses are going to suffer,” Fish said. “They’re either terrified that it’s going away because they’ve made a lot of money not doing things by the rules for a long time, or they’re worried about the government coming in and getting involved.

“I know lots of players who don’t pay their taxes and so forth. And they’ve made a lot of money and done very well for themselves and they’re used to it and it hasn’t been that much trouble for them with law enforcement and so forth.

“But rules change everything.”

Rules and regulations do change everything, but that’s not to say all California businesses are doomed to fail. For the farms and shops and producers and artisans who see what’s coming and are prepared to adhere to the new world order of legal cannabis, there is a massive marketplace to serve — nearly 40 million California residents. It’s a substantial jump from unregulated mania to hyper-regulated adherence, but it’s also the cost of doing business in a post-Prop 64 world.

If your business is contemplating that leap into the professional marketplace and wants to talk it out with somebody who has been there, reach out. We can talk about the regulations you should be expecting, the commercialization that awaits the California market and a whole lot more.

Read my full report from California at The Cannabist — and check out As California Goes, producer Vince Chandler’s short film (written and produced by yours truly), while you’re there.

Meet Grasslands president Ricardo Baca: Toronto, Latvia, Amsterdam, Denver, etc.

By Grasslands Staff

Grasslands president Ricardo Baca will be speaking at these festivals, conferences and events in 2017. Contact Ricardo now to connect if your paths are crossing — or to set up a call to discuss your business’ strategy.

High Times Business Summit: January 19 — Los Angeles, California

Winter, a Mason Jar Dinner: January 26 — Boulder, Colorado

South by Southwest: March 15 — Austin, Texas

Nightclub & Bar Convention: March 28 — Las Vegas, Nevada

The Cannabist’s 420 Week Kickoff Party: April 14 — Denver, Colorado

Lift Expo: May 27 — Toronto, Ontario

Madd City: June 1 — Riga, Latvia

Cannabis Liberation Day: June 11 — Amsterdam, Netherlands