This is the team at the Grasslands marketing agency

RICARDO BACA / FOUNDER & CEO

Ricardo Baca is a 20-year veteran journalist, keynote speaker, TEDx veteran and thought leader in modern media and drug-policy circles. He served as The Denver Post’s first-ever marijuana editor and founded news vertical The Cannabist, where he extensively covered the advent of adult-use cannabis and related issues across the country and around the world, as seen in the feature documentary Rolling Papers (Netflix).

In 2016, Ricardo launched Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency to work directly with business leaders in highly regulated industries, including cannabis, energy and traditional healthcare. Named Marketer of the Year by AdCann in 2019, Ricardo has received numerous accolades for his trailblazing work covering drug policy, cannabis business and culture, and continues to columnize and host podcasts for a number of top publications.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Denver Post, Vox, The New York Times

Super inspired by: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: The Marshall Project

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Travel. Design. Writing. Feminist. ENFP.

 

DEBBIE McHUGH / CHIEF OF STAFF

Debbie McHugh is a 20-year media publishing veteran and joins Grasslands from Rodale, Inc. (since acquired by Hearst), where she served as Director of People Operations & Strategy across all Rodale brands including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Her career overseeing large-scale media operations includes the roles of senior managing editor at Men’s Health and managing editor at Condé Nast Publications, Seventeen and Aspen Magazine.

Debbie additionally helped guide the nationwide launch of Jane magazine, where she also served as managing editor. In addition to her extensive network of national journalists, Debbie also has substantial contacts and experience in the book publishing world, where she was part of the team behind several New York Times bestselling franchises such as, Eat This, Not That!, The Abs Diet, and The Men’s Health and Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises. She has demonstrated exceptional acumen in the media-publicity space throughout her career, spearheading numerous high-profile partnerships and wide-reaching programs.

Three newsletters I check every single day: Marijuana Moment, Entrepreneur, Morning Brew 

Super inspired by: Brené Brown 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Alzheimer’s Association 

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Skiing. Hiking. Kayaking with @dollythedachshund.

amanda

AMANDA LOWELL LEECH /
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS

Amanda Lowell Leech is a public relations professional with over 10 years of agency experience. She has assisted clients of all sizes in industries including talent, fashion, food & beverage and health & wellness, and has been a large part of the tactical planning and strategizing for the accounts she has overseen.

Prior to joining Grasslands, Amanda spent three years in Los Angeles as a senior account executive at coded{pr} working on accounts including TechStyle, Watters and Naturalizer. Before that, Amanda spent nearly seven years in New York at Identity Talent + PR where she learned the industry through high-level contracts with Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated. She has secured top-level media placements in national outlets including CNN Travel, E! News, Forbes and People Magazine.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Skimm, Refinery29, People Magazine

Super inspired by: My family

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Green Chimneys 

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Family. Fitness. Food. My dog.

emily gray brosious

EMILY GRAY BROSIOUS / CONTENT MARKETING DIRECTOR

Emily Gray Brosious is a storyteller, brand builder and communications professional with a background in digital content marketing and multimedia journalism. Her expertise centers around the highly regulated cannabis industry, and she specializes in communicating key messaging through innovative strategy, compelling brand narratives and optimized content development. 

Prior to joining Grasslands, Emily served as founding digital editor and chief reporter for Extract, a national cannabis news vertical operated under the Sun Times Network, where she produced in-depth coverage of national cannabis business news, politics and legislative issues. Emily cut her teeth in the Chicago news market, covering politics, activism and crime as a multimedia reporter for Homicide Watch Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times and other local news publications. She holds a master’s in journalism from DePaul University in Chicago.

Three media outlets I check every single day: AdWeek, The New York Times, WBEZ 91.5FM (Chicago Public Radio!)

Super inspired by: My bad@ss mom

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: ProPublica

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Family. Art. Music. Civics. Tinkering.

Alexis Lipnicki Grasslands PR Manager

ALEXIS LIPNICKI / PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER

Alexis Lipnicki is a public relations and marketing professional with 10 years of agency and in-house experience, including senior management roles. She has supported clients of all sizes in sectors such as food & beverage, automotive aftermarket, luxury lifestyle, and health & wellness. Alexis considers herself a 360-degree communications professional and enjoys creating and executing upon integrated marketing strategies, with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to joining Grasslands, Alexis ran the marketing and communications department at knife and tool company Cold Steel. She has worked at numerous public relations agencies in Los Angeles, most notably Porter Novelli, where she worked on accounts including The Almond Board of California, Nature Made and Ben’s Original (formerly Uncle Ben’s). Alexis also recently earned her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Northcentral University, graduating with honors. She has secured top-level media placements in national outlets including Parade, USA Today, Everyday Health and People Magazine.

Three media outlets I check every single day: Forbes, Refinery 29, LA Times

Super inspired by: The Stanley Brothers

When I’m off the clock (in five words): My dogs. Spicy food. Outdoors.

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Westside German Shepherd Rescue

a photo of Lindsey Clark, a publicist at Grasslands: A Journalism Minded Agency

LINDSEY CLARKE / PUBLICIST

Lindsey Clarke is a public relations professional with versatile experience representing luxury consumer and lifestyle brands, from startups to international labels. She has worked in both agency and in-house environments to develop and successfully execute on campaigns and media outreach. 

Prior to joining Grasslands, Lindsey worked in media relations for five years in Los Angeles, supporting notable brands including Eddie Bauer, Teva and Ulla Johnson fashion. Lindsey’s drive to strategically communicate a brand’s story has landed significant media attention in top-tier outlets including Robb Report, Forbes and Rolling Stone.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Daily (podcast), all things NYMag.com, The New York Times

Super inspired by: My grandma, Jane

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Podcasts. Nieces. Spicy margs. Adventuring.

geoff-caldwell

GEOFF CALDWELL / CONTENT MARKETING SPECIALIST & COPYWRITER 

Geoff Caldwell is a writer, researcher and marketing specialist with experience in everything from cannabis and crisis management to academia, sports marketing, publishing and the music industry. Before joining Grasslands, he wrote extensively about cannabis history, legislation and products for Where’s Weed. He also co-founded Yardarm Media, which provided editing, writing and consulting services for academic institutions and first-time authors. His professional background gives him unique insight into the ways impactful storytelling can elevate media relations and business growth. Among his diverse roles: he served as a trusted aide to the president of Duke University; was a key figure in the rapid growth of Chicago-based independent record label Thrill Jockey; a sports marketing television broadcast expert; a courier for the U.S. Army; and an intern at National Public Radio. A native of Alexandria, Virginia, he received a bachelor’s in History and Latin American Studies from Oberlin College.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Guardian (global news and European soccer), The Washington Post, The Athletic

Super inspired by: Lilian Thuram

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: SOME (So Others Might Eat)

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Kids, Soccer, Music, Food, Travel

a photo of Erin Curry the project coordinator at Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency

ERIN CURRY / PROJECT COORDINATOR

Erin Curry is a public relations professional specializing in relationship building, account management, media relations, strategy and design. As a Project Coordinator at Grasslands, she merges purpose, passion and fresh energy to deliver seamless, world-class service to every client account. 

Prior to joining Grasslands, Erin served as a Public Relations Account Coordinator at Webb Strategic Communications where she provided strategic public relations and account management support. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri (MIZ!)

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Daily (podcast), The Colorado Sun, Marijuana Business Daily

Super inspired by: Strong, intelligent women such as my mother, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama, Greta Thunberg… the list goes on!

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Colorado Coalition for the Homeless

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Enjoying / embracing the little things.

Kirsten Cavnar

KIRSTEN CAVNAR / ACCOUNT COORDINATOR

Kirsten Cavnar is a public relations professional focused on supporting the team on a tactical level. Kirsten joined Grasslands as a PR intern, before coming on as an account coordinator. Prior to Grasslands, she held an intern position with the anti-hunger organization Metro Caring, supporting its communication efforts. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the Metropolitan State University of Denver. A lifelong storyteller, Kirsten is passionate about communicating a client’s vision and helping it become a reality. 

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Denver Post, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone
 
Super inspired by: The holy trinity (aka my mom, Matthew McConaughey and Miley Cyrus)
 
My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Destiny Rescue
 
When I’m off the clock (in five words): Family. Outdoors. Spicy Margs. Movies. 
MACKENZIE METER / MARKETING SPECIALIST AND COPYWRITER

MACKENZIE METER / MARKETING SPECIALIST & COPYWRITER

Mackenzie Meter is a marketing and writing professional who has worked with clients from craft beer to law to banking. By combining research- and data-driven insights with creative approaches to business problems, Mackenzie is able to help businesses and clients reach the right audiences and grow. 

Prior to joining Grasslands, Mackenzie worked in the craft beer industry and in a Denver-based marketing agency. She also provided freelance marketing and writing services to select clients. Originally from Michigan, Mackenzie earned her bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and her master’s in marketing from the University of Colorado, Denver. She is HubSpot-certified for Inbound Marketing, Software, Social Media and Content Marketing. 

Three media outlets I check every single day: Colorado Public Radio (print and radio), Wonkette, Vox

Super inspired by: Dream-chasers and creators like Jimmy Chin; steadfast leaders like Gretchen Whitmer; anyone with creative solutions to climate change. 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Environmental Defense Fund

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Hiking. Yoga. Running. Cooking. Family.

Andre Hascall, Grasslands Marketing Intern

ANDRE HASCALL / ACCOUNT COORDINATOR

Andre Hascall is a public relations professional who is passionate about making connections both personal and professional and serving as an asset to the Grasslands team. Andre earned his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism Mass Communications and Public Relations from Humboldt State University (HSU) in 2020. During school, Andre worked for the university’s newspaper, serving first as a writer and then as the Life and Arts editor. He also spent time on the school’s student-run radio station, where he was the co-manager of the sports talk team. Andre hopes to harness his experience as a communicator to continue sharpening his skills in the public relations world.

Three media outlets I check every single day: Bleacher Report, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Lumberjack (HSU Newspaper)

Super inspired by: LaDainian Tomlinson (NFL Hall of Famer)

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Promises2Kids

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Music. Cooking. Sports. Gaming. Friendship.

geneva

Geneva Rodriguez / Account Coordinator

Geneva infuses a creative spirit with cutting-edge communications skills in her role as account coordinator for Grasslands. She has a dynamic background spanning magazine publishing, finance, nonprofits and academia. A strategic planner to the core, she aims to utilize her expertise in marketing, research and storytelling to amplify the voices of companies and brands, and resonate with the customers they serve. 

Prior to joining Grasslands, Geneva worked as a graduate teaching and research assistant at the University of Denver. During her tenure as a content and communications specialist at a financial firm, she spearheaded multiple projects to build brand awareness, improve employee experience and strengthen business-to-customer relationships.  Geneva earned a master’s in Media and Public Communication from the University of Denver, and a dual-major bachelor’s in Psychology and Editing, Writing and Media from Florida State University (GO NOLES!).

Three media outlets I check every single day: VICE, Forbes and Rolling Stone

Super inspired by: My grandfather, Oscar

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: The Trevor Project

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Journaling. Spirituality. Pit bulls. Pasta. Nature.  

Jesse Burns CMO at Grasslands: A Journalism Focused Agency

JESSE BURNS / CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER

Jesse Burns is a cannabis marketing veteran who served as the longtime marketing director for Sweet Grass—Colorado’s leading edible in the baked goods category—before joining Grasslands as CMO in 2020. He believes that product design and a deep understanding of the customer journey are the driving forces for exceptional brands, and that marketers must strive to understand what emotions customers experience in order to craft a meaningful brand narrative and build lasting relationships. 

Jesse has received multiple awards for marketing and product design, including Colorado’s THC Classic and a Gold Clio. He also serves as a mentor for the CanopyBoulder cannabis startup incubator. He sits on the MBA Alumni Board for the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is co-chair of the programmatic committee for the Cannabis Entrepreneurship Academy, an executive education program at CU Boulder. 

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Indicator from Planet Money (podcast), AdAge, CNN

Super inspired by: Exceptionally well-designed products and sexy brands 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: West Virginia 4-H Forward Fund

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Skiing. Rafting. Cooking. Sports. Music.

CHLOE STEERMAN / EXECUTIVE ACCOUNT DIRECTOR

Chloe Steerman began her career as a PR and Social Media Coordinator with Philadelphia-based agency Brownstein Group. In 2016, Chloe relocated to Colorado to join The Rosen Group as an account executive, where she focused primarily on cannabis industry clients.

She has assisted clients both large and small in a variety of industries including technology, food and beverage and manufacturing. Chloe’s creative energy and passion for PR have contributed to her success in developing and executing publicity programs that have reached the upper tiers of American media. She has secured top-level media placements in national and international media outlets including Forbes, Bloomberg, FoxCanadian Broadcasting Corporation and Entrepreneur.

Three media outlets I check every single day: AdAge, Fast Company, The New York Times

Super inspired by: Don Draper

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: National Parks Conservation Association

When I’m off the clock (in five words): I’m on the road again.   

Business development manager of Grasslands John Svoboda

JOHN SVOBODA / BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

John Svoboda is a sales and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience leading business development organizations. His expertise centers around the highly regulated cannabis industry, with a specialization in technology, operational efficiency and compliance. Prior to joining Grasslands, John served as the head of sales and marketing for top cannabis software platforms Trellis, Green Bits and Flowhub. John has spent time living in Colorado, Oregon and California, experiencing the distinct nuances of each market. He draws from this experience to help license holders, investors and ancillary brands build successful businesses.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Athletic, Marijuana Business Daily, The Oregonian

Super inspired by: My mother

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Sound Equine Options

When I’m off the clock (in five words):  Music. Animals. Nature. Grilling. Soccer.

ALETA LABAK / COPY CHIEF

Aleta joined Grasslands after a 19-year career with The Denver Post, the largest news organization in Colorado. During her time at the Post, Aleta worked as a copy editor, page designer and digital producer in several departments, including local and national news, business, features and sports. In 2014, she joined Grasslands founder Ricardo Baca as he launched The Cannabist, the Post’s award-winning online vertical covering the historic legalization and implementation of adult-use cannabis in Colorado. Together they helped establish The Cannabist as a go-to national resource for serious cannabis journalism, a platform that ultimately overtook High Times and Marijuana.com in digital traffic.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The New York Times, The Denver Post, Montrose Press (support local journalism!)

Super inspired by: The plant kingdom—amazingly adaptable and resilient. 

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Outdoors. Horticulture. Craft. Cook. Explore.

publicist for the Grasslands marketing agency Julie Dietel

JULIE DIETEL / SENIOR PUBLICIST

Julie Dietel is a public relations professional with a varied background in marketing and communications. In working with nonprofits and private startups, Julie has helped clients reach national, international and local audiences, ushered in fundraising news and successfully announced partnerships. Having worked both in-house and on the agency side, Julie has a passion for storytelling and a knack for thinking creatively without losing sight of strategic goals. 

Prior to joining Grasslands, Julie served as an account executive at Barokas Communications— representing technology clients in the B2B, e-commerce, aerospace, remittance and telemedicine industries—as well as a marketing and communications associate at the Mark Morris Dance Group. An East Coast transplant, Julie earned her bachelor of arts in public relations from Hofstra University with a minor in dance.

Three media outlets I check every single day: Axios Sports, The New York Times, The Denver Post

Super inspired by: The people in my life—I am beyond grateful.

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Americans for the Arts

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Patriots Football. Anything outdoors. Water.

meghan-odea

MEGHAN O’DEA / CONTENT STRATEGIST & COPYWRITER

Meghan O’Dea is a versatile content creator whose experience ranges from technical writing, communications and marketing, to creative nonfiction and digital journalism. Prior to joining the Grasslands team, Meghan worked on staff as a writer and editor for publications including Fortune magazine, Uproxx and Lonely Planet. She has also spent 10 years earning freelance bylines in The Washington Post, Playboy, Bitch magazine, Nylon, Civilized and more, specializing in personal essays and articles about travel, outdoor recreation and cannabis. 

What ties these diverse professional threads together is Meghan’s strong motivation to create connections between people, their passions and their communities. She holds a master’s in creative nonfiction from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and was a visiting participant in the international MFA program at City University in Hong Kong. Meghan has also taught writing at the college level and guest lectured on topics such as literary citizenship, urban history and professional development for writers.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Refinery29

Super inspired by: Women like Isabella Bird, Uschi Obermaier and my maternal grandmother, who dared to travel the world even in eras when global adventures went against the grain.

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: PEN America’s Prison Writing Program

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Books. Long walks. Architecture. Mixtapes.

sean

SEAN BILLISITZ / PR & SOCIAL MEDIA SPECIALIST

Sean Billisitz is an advertising and public relations professional who excels in media relations, strategic campaign development and social media messaging. Prior to joining Grasslands, he served as an associate account executive with Michigan-based communications firm Truscott Rossman, assisting clients in a range of industries including healthcare, insurance, energy and biomedical research. Sean earned his Bachelor of Science in advertising and public relations from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in 2018. His work in the Advertising and Public Relations program for the GVSU Department of History and the American Cancer Society garnered multiple awards. In May 2019, the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America named Sean the “Newcomer of the Year.”

Three media outlets I check every single day: Denver 9News, Leafly, Rolling Stone

Super inspired by: My father

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Little Kids Rock

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Bud. Beer. Boarding. Bass music. 🤘🏼

MADDY-NEW

MADISON WARE / PUBLICIST

Madison Ware is a Denver-based public relations professional focused on creating brand stories and sharing them on the world stage. She is passionate about collaborative storytelling and building strong client and media relationships. Madison previously served as an account coordinator at MAPRagency, where she assisted clients in the tech and healthcare sectors with B2B communications efforts. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she earned a bachelor’s in public relations with a minor in business.

Three media outlets I check every single day: Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Los Angeles Times

Super inspired by: Ellen DeGeneres 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Best Friends Animal Society / No-Kill Los Angeles 

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Food. Concerts. Netflix. IPAs only.

Brian Bock Grasslands

BRIAN BOCK / PUBLICIST

Brian Bock believes in marrying data and storytelling for his PR clients. He knows that a good dataset can become a compelling news hook. In addition to Brian’s more analytical skills, he also enjoys writing creative copy to highlight the intrinsic values and cultural touchstones that make his clients unique. 

Currently based in Chicago, Brian started his career in public relations in 2015 working with businesses specializing in legal, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceuticals before expanding into the nonprofit and arts & culture sectors. In addition to his traditional PR agency work, Brian also spent time gaining a better understanding of media engagement data and reporting while working at Cision, a national business wire and media analytics service. He’s helped place clients in media outlets such as Forbes, People and the Chicago Tribune, and broadcast programs like Good Morning America.

Brian graduated summa cum laude from Governors State University in Illinois, where he served as the assistant editor of The GSU Phoenix and university library marketing intern, and received the Leo & Margaret Goodman-Malamuth Endowed Scholarship in Media Communications.

Three media outlets I check every single day: Chicago Tribune, Mother Jones and The Advocate

Super inspired by: Ina Garten, Thich Nhat Hanh and Moss H. Kendrix

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Plum Village

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Stargazing. Concerts. Cooking. Yoga. Camping.

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CLAIRE WOLFF / MARKETING COORDINATOR

Claire Wolff is a marketing professional specializing in brand strategy, development and coordination. She has experience in marketing and branding within a number of different industries, from non-profits to artificial intelligence. Claire is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business, where she completed a major in marketing, minor in sociology, and a certificate in social responsibility. She is endlessly curious and has a passion for people, storytelling, and brands.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Indicator from Planet Money (podcast), Morning Brew, Marijuana Moment

Super inspired by: Miley Cyrus & Chelsea Handler

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: The Innocence Project

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Friends. Travel. Music. Coffee. Hiking.

a photo of Sarah Cobb, the PR intern at Grasslands Marketing Agency

SARAH COBB / JUNIOR PUBLICIST

After graduating from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in public relations, Sarah started working as an intern with Grasslands’ PR team. Prior to Grasslands, she served on an internship with anti-hunger organization Metro Caring, supporting the nonprofit group’s communications efforts. Sarah enjoys the creative aspects of storytelling and brand building, and is passionate about learning new strategies for reaching business goals.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Denver Post, BuzzFeed, The New York Times

Super inspired by: Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Metro Caring

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Craft beer. Snowboarding. Furry friends.

Madison Mullis

MADISON MULLIS / ACCOUNT COORDINATOR

Madison Mullis is a passionate PR practitioner who strives to spotlight equality and promote diversity within the cannabis industry. She has a multitude of experiences spanning the nonprofit, corporate and academic sectors. As a strategic storyteller and relationship cultivator, there is nothing Madison enjoys more than using her communication skills to elevate marginalized voices and dismantle the negative stigma surrounding cannabis consumption. 

Before joining Grasslands, Madison served as a graduate assistant at the University of Memphis while pursuing her master’s degree in Integrated Strategic Media. Her thesis analyzed #StonerMom discourse on TikTok. It was presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) national conference. 

Madison also held the role of community relations intern for national auto parts retailer AutoZone, where she helped plan corporate events, wrote monthly newsletters, designed infographics and curated social media posts. Prior to grad school, Madison received a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from Georgia Southern University.

Three media outlets I check every single day: Leafly, The New York Times, Forbes

Super inspired by: Dolly Parton, Jackie Bryant, Alice Moon and my mom

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: English Springer Rescue America (ESRA)

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Friends. Food. My fur baby!

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