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From Ricardo's Desk: Post-pandemic event planning

Published on
May 12, 2021
Throwing a post pandemic party can have its concerns.

Ricardo Baca is a 20-year veteran journalist and cannabis futurist, widely respected in both modern media and drug-policy circles. He was appointed The Denver Post’s first-ever cannabis editor in 2013 and founded news vertical The Cannabist, where he extensively covered the advent of the U.S. adult-use cannabis market and related issues around the world, as seen in the feature documentary Rolling Papers

Ricardo launched Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency in 2016 to work directly with business leaders in highly regulated industries, from cannabis and psychedelics to spirits and healthcare. In 2023, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed Ricardo to the state’s first-ever Natural Medicine Advisory Board to contribute to policy development around the state’s eventual psychedelics framework.

Named one of Fortune’s 7 Most Powerful People in America’s Marijuana Industry in 2016 and Marketer of the Year by AdCann in 2019, Ricardo has received numerous accolades for his trailblazing work. In addition to his previous journalistic coverage of drug policy, cannabis business and culture, Ricardo continues to host panel discussions at events nationwide and contribute columns for a number of top publications including Rolling Stone. He is also a sought-after thought leader in media, cultural events and podcasts, and has spoken on The Colbert Report, NPR’s All Things Considered, TEDxBoulder, TEDxMarin and multiple years at SXSW.

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.

Friends.It turns out that the adage of spring showers bringing May flowers has some teeth.It feels like we were just in stay-at-home quarantine mode, and suddenly most of our colleagues are getting vaccinated and the world is waking up around us. How immensely thrilling—and terrifying, too, especially for marketers and brands looking to produce in-person events in the next six months.The idea of gathering together in large numbers in 2021 should be equally thrilling and terrifying, given what we’re coming out of—and what we’re working toward. Thrilling, because how much do we miss parties and events? Terrifying, because anyone producing an in-person experience in 2021 needs to approach it differently than they ever have before.Case in point: My colleagues and I are well known for our signature event, The Grasslands Party, which is a high-level networking event produced adjacent to conferences including SXSW, MJBizCon, NCIA and others. After 10-plus events in Vegas, Boston, Oakland, Austin, Toronto and beyond, we’re now planning a Grasslands Party for Oct. 20, 2021 in Las Vegas, timed to coincide with the in-person return of MJBizCon.And as we’ve gotten our event team together for the first couple meetings in the last few months, the conversations are indeed very different.“The first thing on my list is budget for an Event Safety Adviser,” our event producer told us recently.And I’ll admit, it was the first time I’d ever heard of an Event Safety Adviser. But sure enough, a few minutes later we’d approved budget for the important hire—who will make sure our event is planned and produced as safely as possible.The challenges of live event production in this complicated era are compounded by the fact that events are planned months in advance—and the regulations and best practices steering responsible gatherings change weekly and are region-specific. So here we are, in late spring in Denver, planning an event for mid-October in Las Vegas.NBD, right?Marketing during a pandemic takes significantly more strategy than during normal times, and my team and I are planning an event that will allow us to be flexible on every front—from the number of attendees we’ll host at the limited-capacity party to the priorities of the indoor-outdoor spaces within our venue.What will the world look like in mid-October? Here’s hoping it looks increasingly more open and safe. And if you want to talk event strategy, marketing campaigns and more, you know my colleagues and I are always here for you.Sending my best.RicardoPS, especially for cannabis professionals: We are officially discussing sponsorship opportunities for this year’s Grasslands Party, so reach out to if you’d like to learn more.

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