High Times and the Cannabis Cup

Inside the world's largest marijuana party: scandal, conflict, and noble intentions.

Origins of the CupThe Cannabis Cup is the highest honor awarded to members of the multi-billion dollar international marijuana industry. Given in November for the last 12 years, the Cup is more than a prized piece of sculpted silver. It is a pilgrimage, a tribal gathering, marijuana culture's most outrageous celebration, orchestrated entirely by High Times, the self-proclaimed "Most Notorious Magazine in the World."

You can't understand the origin and spirit of the Cup without understanding High Times, the magazine created 25 years ago by Thomas King For?ade, a troubled genius whose other ventures included smuggling, activism, and finally, in 1978, suicide with a pearl-handled pistol.

At this year's Cup, an evocative movie tribute shown just before Thursday night's awards ceremony portrayed For?ade as unpredictable, emotionally unstable, and brilliant. High Times memoirs reveal a tormented For?ade, both admirable and detestable. He often treated employees disrespectfully, firing and rehiring without cause, not paying them, playing favorites, and lying. He shot down good story ideas, pitted employees against each other, publicly ridiculed and humiliated them.

Because of and in spite of For?ade, the magazine attracted great writers, photographers and artists. Its subversive attitude and courageous attacks against the Establishment earned it a loyal following. By the time For?ade blew his brains out, High Times was popular enough to survive his death and to enter the Reagan 80's as a pro-drug alternative zine with hundreds of thousands of readers.

Always plagued by internal dissension and coups, High Times in the mid-80's emerged from yet another employee reshuffle to find itself run by musician-activist Steve Hager, a pot-loving idealist whose interest in social justice and personal growth led him into America's Rainbow hippie community. He bonded with counterculture icons like Stephen Gaskin, and became a participatory observer and leader of countercultural gatherings.

Hager tried to mellow HT's hard-edged New York style with hippie consciousness and egalitarianism, but his efforts were complicated by a shadowy entity called the Trans-High Corporation, its Board of Directors, a corporate Trust, and the organization's attorney Michael Kennedy, an Irish dynamo feared for his hardball tactics.

For?ade's estate established the basic infrastructure governing High Times as a business entity, but Hager's counterculture leanings were grafted onto Kennedy's ultra-capitalist agenda, resulting in an unstable hybrid of contradictory values that have dismayed sensitive, educated High Times readers. The magazine often hits home runs, carrying innovative articles that entertain and enlighten, but it also runs unforgivable clunkers, such as a Cannabis Cup article in which a High Times staffer actually complains of walking around with his "dick" in his hand because he can't get laid in prostitute-laden Amsterdam!

Older readers and women are especially turned off by articles (like the Ozzy Osbourne cover story) that feature attitudes and topics far removed from marijuana or the evolved consciousness it allegedly produces. Many readers' faith has been shaken by the laughable, fold-out "fake bud" ads that dominate the magazine's front and back portals.

"Those are insulting, exploitive ads," commented an 18-year-old college student who'd earlier told me that he looks to High Times for spiritual and political guidance. "It makes me think that High Times is insincere, that they are only about money."

Noble intentions

In the last five years, Steve Hager has been crucified, purged and reinstated as editor. Other senior HT editors, officials and journalists, such as entheogenic exile Peter Gorman, and radical radio investigative reporter Paul DeRienzo, have been fired, banished or have quit. Reports of mutinous staff meetings, replete with bitter name-calling and scuffles, are widely circulated amongst magazine insiders.

Hager has been back in charge since summer of 1998, and he's increasingly exalted by High Times' official spin machine. The Cannabis Cup is Hager's baby - he organized the first one in 1988 as a harvest festival, only a few years after Dutch marijuana and coffeeshops gained a reputation for high quality and de facto legality.

The early Cups were like family gatherings; a few dozen people helped Hager rate Dutch weed. Now, Hager's Cup is a major commercial enterprise, with as many as 2,500 participants enjoying the Thanksgiving week bacchanal.

Hager knows that most people who pay $150 to $200 for a judge's pass and hundreds more for overseas accommodations and plane tickets arranged by HT's travel company are interested primarily in doing what they can't do in the United States: inhale plenteous lungfuls of superb cannabanoids in cool coffeeshops.

Hager tries to balance the "fun vibe" with an "educational vibe," facilitating communal idea sharing at the daily "4:20 council," introducing pot people to what he believes is their cultural and spiritual heritage.

That's why this year's event honored Beat poets and writers such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. These literary giants, whose writings represent the best of 20th century thought and wordcraft, were unknown to many Cup attendees.

But despite noble intentions and some righteous journalism, Hager and High Times have been dogged by persistent questions about the integrity of the magazine and the Cup itself.

Former Cannabis Cup winners De Dampkring and many other Dutch cannabis activists and entrepreneurs refuse to participate in the Cup, saying the event has been ruined by ego, money and corruption. What used to be a harvest festival is now "megabucks Americanized competition." Public relations money spent on bud babes, advertising and freebies is more important than the quality of a competitor's herb.

Only a handful of Amsterdam's coffeeshops and seed companies compete in the Cup, and no shops from outside Amsterdam compete. Yet many cannabisheads believe Cup winners have Holland's best, and spend their money on winning seeds and buds accordingly.

Dutch cannabusiness leaders say the Cup polarizes Amsterdam. City residents are pushed out of neighborhood potshops by boisterous Americans. Gossip and trade wars erupt, as rivals slag each other's products and marketing. Jealousies and rivalries fester, including some that lead to violence or other revenge. Reputations and fortunes are made and broken.

When the Cup is over, Hager and his exhausted, stoned-out crew return home, but the factionalized and equally exhausted Dutch cannabis community is left to deal with pressure from government officials, who say the Cup's high profile makes it harder for them to defend Holland's tolerant soft drugs policies. Inadvertently, the event's emphasis on getting super-stoned provides ammunition for countries like France, Sweden and the United States, which continually nag Holland to implement strict prohibition.

The nagging has worked: the Netherlands' government has incrementally and quietly acquiesced to anti-pot forces. In the last three years, coffeeshop regulations have been tightened, and Dutch seed industrialists are worried about prison and higher prices because last April Dutch lawmakers criminalized cannabis seed production.

As this year's Cup opened during Thanksgiving week, all eyes were on Hager, his crew, and the Cup participants. Would this be the best party ever, or a flawed spectacle that did as much harm as good? Is the Cup half empty, or half full?

Dutch drug doctor

The departure lounge for my flight to Amsterdam was filled with pot refugees who viewed Amsterdam as a miracle and the Cannabis Cup as a sacred gathering. But as fate would have it, my seat on the plane was next to a Dutch doctor on her way back from a drug abuse conference.

According to the doctor, who supervises rehabilitation of heroin addicts in gritty Rotterdam, American pot tourists have long been misled by High Times and a greedy, tourist-dependent segment of the Dutch pot industry into thinking that cannabis is legal in Holland.

Marijuana and other "soft drugs" are not legal, she said, although "tolerant" handling of their criminal status was crafted by Dutch policymakers in the 1960's and 70's.

"We had a radical youth movement that we did not want to imprison or further alienate," the doctor said. "Coffeeshops helped control soft drug use; they kept kids from buying grass on the street, where there are hard drugs and violence."

But worldwide prohibition, and commercial exploitation by cannabusiness organizations like High Times, meant that "an internal policy for handling our citizens became a magnet for people from other countries where policies were not as tolerant."

"Suddenly, we have so many Americans coming here to get sick and fall in the canal after eating hashish food," she said. "We had coffeeshops springing up with crime syndicates as their suppliers, and large amounts of foreign hard drugs, illegal immigration, and money tied in. Those who were of the hippie Provo ideas became less, and the businessmen became more. The marijuana scene was not hippie squatters anymore - it was big business, the love of guilders."

Although the doctor claimed she did not believe marijuana led to harder drugs, she asserted that a small number of cannabis coffeeshops were sources for chemical drugs - heroin, ecstasy, acid, cocaine.
"Outside of the coffeeshops and in the doorways to our homes [in Rotterdam] are people who do nothing but use and trade in marijuana and harder drugs," she said. "The grass is very strong, and a lot of people play out their whole lives smoking on it. They do not work, they just collect welfare handouts and spend it on drugs."

Several times during our unpleasant conversation, I questioned the doctor's xenophobic, prejudicial view of
Americans and marijuana. "Amsterdam is not Holland," she vehemently replied. "In many parts of my country, most are against coffeeshops and you will not find one. We are a trading nation and a tolerant people, but we are tired of drug Americans coming over here to act like a herd of intoxicated children."
As the plane sank under the massive cloudbank covering the North Sea and Europe to land in the early morning mist at Schiphol, I was troubled by the doctor's sentiments. She suggested I call the man in charge of the government's drug abuse office in Amsterdam. So, while other Cup visitors were sprinting from the plane headed for their first stone of the Cup, I was on the phone with Roel Kerssemakers, head of the Jellinek Prevention and Consultancy Office.

Marijuana abuse?

According to Kerssemakers, the Dutch Experiment with soft drugs has produced a unique sociological milieu in which marijuana use can be objectively evaluated.

In other countries, he explained, marijuana use is inevitably influenced by prohibition. As a Cup participant put it, "If you're a typical smoker in the states, you smoke and buy every chance you get, because you never know when you'll get good bud again! Over here, you relax and can be more controlled."

The statistics show this drug is not reason for much concern," Kerssemakers said. "People use it, determine if it fits in with their lifeplans and activities, and usually stop using it. The Netherlands has a low rate of abuse and violence, especially when compared to America. It is a puzzle to the American drug czar, General McCaffrey, who recently visited our office. He wonders how our tolerant attitude results in less abuse than his harder approach. He was criticizing us as too liberal, but we told him to look at our figures, and they surprised him."

Kerssemakers, who has 20 years of experience as a drug counselor, said his office "treats hundreds of people a year who are having problems with cannabis."

"Some become addicted psychologically," he said. "Most can use cannabis moderately. They do it for a little while when they are young, then they quit. But we see some people who use too often, usually as a way of escaping from personal problems. If they try to stop, they experience strong emotions and anxiety, becoming aware again of personal problems."

"We believe Dutch people are intelligent and self-respecting; they will recognize on their own if they have a drug problem," he said. "We don't spend money having police tell them they have problems. We don't want cannabis users in contact with police, courts, prisons, or criminals in the black market. We want to rid ourselves of hard drugs. That's our approach."

Part of the approach involves the BCD, a cannabis retailers association that advocates intelligent use of marijuana and avoidance of hard drugs. More and more coffeeshop owners are aware that excessive pot use, and the specter of hard drugs, is causing health and public relations problems that may force the government to shut cannabusinesses down.

The BCD, in cooperation with the Jellinek office, publishes a pamphlet that honestly admits that cannabis and hash "can also be used the wrong way," and offers "12 tips" for safe cannabis use.
Kerssemakers was happy to talk about BCD's efforts, but I had to prod him into talking about General McCaffrey's visit to his office.

"It disgusted me what he said about Holland's policies," Kerssemakers finally admitted. "If he could just be rational and accept the facts of our successes. If he could just be open to understanding our ideas and tactics. But he won't listen. He won't be rational."

Pot party house

After finding a hotel and consulting a map, I shook off jet lag as I walked to a tramstop and hopped on the city's laudable mass transit system. My destination was Pax Party House - Cannabis Cup Headquarters - where three smoky floors of pot plants, expo booths and hype awaited.

Cup Security were conferring with police when I arrived: the Pax shares a building and sidewalk with a police station; officers were miffed when Cup tour buses packed with red-eyed Cuppers interfered with police vehicles.

I had a powerful epiphany, realizing - as I did over and over again in Amsterdam - the stark differences between Holland and America. In the US, a massive pot-smoking event next door to a police station would result in mass arrests. In Holland, police and potheads negotiated parking arrangements while hundreds of people got stoned nearby.

Inside the Pax was the closest thing to heaven that pot groupies will ever experience. Hager was orchestrating seminars on Burroughs, Ginsberg, and Kerouac. Upstairs were constellations of cannacelebrities: Sensi Seeds' Ben Dronkers and his sons; Arjan of the Green House, looking beatific just like he did on the May 1999 cover of High Times; Eagle Bill, the groovy Vaporizer guru; Malcolm Mackinnon, golden radio voice of "High on the Air" being interviewed by a funny guy who was wearing weird hair and clown make-up; dreadlocked Denny, the hempy honcho of Crucial Creations, organizing stoner canal tours; Andre Grossman and Barge, the world's foremost potographers; Breeder Steve, Vancouver grow expert extraordinaire; Sita and Karen of Amsterdam Seed Company of Canada, the only successful seed business run entirely by women and the first Canadian seed company to compete in the Cup; Laurence Cherniak, hash photographer, author, a low-key smiling man set amongst a sea of hilarity, wannabes and super silver haze.

Sensi Seeds' sensual pot nurses in short white skirts roamed amongst celebs and expo displays, giving free hits from electric pipes. Some inhaled too deeply, happy to fall down and look up the nurses' long, lean legs.

I saw awestruck kids, higher than they'd ever been in their lives, laughing maniacally, misidentifying Hager as Howard Marks, hoping for autographs and naked pictures with pornpot babe Misty Rain, choking on a blueberry vapohit proffered by Eagle Bill, marveling at a gangly Jack Herer plant, falling down the stairs and not feeling it, stumbling into 4:20 council, being told to be shush, kinda hurt feelings and out onto the street and into a waiting tour bus, guided by Bus Girl, a very pleasant, very cute former Santa Cruzian who guided the magical mystery tour bus to coffeeshops and back again, showing kindness toward the Cuppie who ate too much space cake and was unable to get up off the bus for four hours - she let him ride around in circles with her.

At night, High Times laid on budacious music by the Cannabis Cup Band and Fishbone at De Melkweg, a cavernous, tobacco-smoke polluted space of darkened halls and dance floors.

The Cup's shock factor peaked Wednesday evening, when a masochistic guy named Crazy Sean took the Melkweg stage and freaked even the most jaded audience members.

Recalls Karen Watson of the Amsterdam Seed Company: "This guy was twisting his penis in knots and stepping over it, hanging bongs from his eyelids, towing a woman around the stage with a strap attached to his penis. I looked around at Ben Dronkers and the other guys; they were wincing and turning away. He tripped everybody out. I feel sorry for his penis."

Coffeeshop hop

The first Netherlands cannabis coffeeshop opened in 1972. Now they can be found throughout Holland, but the largest concentration is in Amsterdam, which has approximately 310 licensed establishments. Some are like neighborhood bars, not welcoming to tourists, but strangers are welcome in many other shops. I enjoyed many fine pot-palaces, like Wolke Witje, with its friendly people, colorful aquarium and seductive music - Shockers, Cherry Moon, remixed Marley, Gunja Girl.

There are coffeehouses for every taste: Barney's Breakfast Bar, a food-lover's delight run by Irish legend Derry, reggae-themed establishments, a house dedicated to Pink Floyd, coffeehouses on barges in canals.
And then there are megahouses - the Grasshoppers, the Green Houses, De Dampkring, and La Canna among them - which feel like a nightclub, a brothel, a trip-out chamber, a pot church, depending on location, waitress and time of day.

At the Grasshopper, water reflections and insect sex murals blew my mind.

At the Greenhouse's three locations, I contemplated expensive, nubile eye candy and creative decor, which consistently win raves from Cup judges.

Less than 20 coffeeshops officially participate in the Cup, and all were mobbed with Cuppers. Some shops were claustrophobic, sardined by rowdy Cupkiddies trying to get their judge's passports stamped and procure samples of free weed. Participating coffeeshops are expected to give free pot to those who pay $200 each for High Times judging passes. Several coffeeshop managers complained "High Times gets the money, we subsidize the Cup by giving away pounds of primo free herb."

At the smallish, humid Grey Area, I listened as a tall, comedic, bald-headed guy named Steve railed against the "Addams Family" while simultaneously claiming his shop had single-handedly created and developed the famous "Bubblegum" weed.

Later, I visited Steve's good friends at Hempworks, a hemp clothing company that also sells seeds from its THSeeds seed bank. Hempworks staged the exciting hemp fashion show that preceded the Thursday night Cup awards. It was the best hemp fashion show I've ever seen (and I've seen quite a few, having been West Coast correspondent for Hemp Times).

Hempworks is run by a couple of savvy American dudes - Doug and Adam - who've outfitted their basement with a bong gallery and a pot plant behind jail bars. I met many of Amsterdam's hippest potstars there, among them Drum, the Glass Cup winner, and Mr Marijuana Botany, Robert Connell Clarke (he reluctantly allowed me to interview him about his stunning book, Hashish).

Doug and Adam sold dozens of dope hemp jackets outfitted with hidden compartments, while I watched their videotapes of people taking bong hits. The videography included stars like Woody Harrelson, who bought 300 Hempworks items for the crew of his movie, "Welcome to Sarajevo." I met D-Monica, a tattooed Goth woman playing great tunes upstairs with unique, attractive style.

I spent a wonderful afternoon at the Cannabis College and the Flying Dutchmen store across the street. Their volunteers, exhibits, products, vaporizer and basement garden were sweet and sublime. I wish I coulda stayed forever; instead I spent hours running in Amsterdamned circles, carrying 60 pounds of cameras, getting lost in the rain (try smoking Sage-2-O hash and finding a street named Nieuwzijdsvoorburgwal!), being welcomed like a comrade in some coffeeshops and treated like Yankee dirt in others.

I never got robbed, even though I was taking 30-second time exposure pictures at four in the morning whilst under the effects of Shiva Bhang, salvinia and kava kava, a therapeutic concoction I'd purchased at the trendy Magic Valley Smart Shop.

I could've legally bought several types of mushrooms and other entheogens, but after waking up outside at dawn to find my camera waiting patiently on its tripod and my head feeling like a circus, I was kinda glad I hadn't.

Who challenges Oz?

When rain started drenching my cameras one evening, I fled into La Canna, a massive three story coffeehouse/restaurant/hotel/pool hall/pipe shop/babe palace/bar, decorated by paintings of American film and music icons, a big bouncer and motorcycle, and Lilly Cavallo, co-owner of La Canna, who helps her husband John De Grouw supervise their hempire.

Behind the hash bar wielding a machete was urbane budtender Dennis. Also serving La Canna's many customers was a multi-ethnic menu of hotties wearing stretch pants and little La Canna shirts. None of them had barhag attitude. In fact, they were multi-lingual artists, writers, dancers, students who enjoyed helping people get high.

I watched Dennis deftly chop, scissor and weigh bud and hash - White Tiger, Skuff Royal, Kali Mist - it flew off his blade into the lungs and brains of La Canna's classy customers. De Grouw recommended I try "Warm Ears" hash. I bought 2 grams for 30 guilders, and raised a few eyebrows by criticizing the European tradition of combining hash or grass with tobacco. I'd smoked those tobaccy-cannabis combo joints, I explained as I packed a hash pipe provided by Dennis, and they'd given me headaches and bad breath.
Inhaling La Canna's spicy hash, I got warm ears while De Grouw talked business. He and his wife Lilly, a purebred Italian fitness trainer who was one of the most beautiful women I saw in beauty-rich Amdam, were two of the few people who had the guts to tell me, on the record, that the Cannabis Cup is a mess.

"We're not in the Cup, just like De Dampkring, the Bluebird, and a lot of other good places," John said. "It makes a lot of money for High Times, but the competition is not fair, and it costs too much money. I told High Times my concerns; they said they would discuss with me, but they didn't. They made some promises to De Dampkring and other people, but they didn't keep those promises, so we are all still out of it. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun festival. They bring pleasure to a lot of Americans, but for us who live here and work in this business, it is not so much pleasure."

Another Cup critic with balls was John at Homegrown Fantaseeds, a company that won the Tenth Cannabis
Cup seed company award.

"It's not disloyal to High Times to say the Cup needs to be completely redone," he said. "There's no way for them to ensure a fair competition. Money has ruined it. It's all politics and bitching. Let's have a cannabis conference instead. No prizes. No bribes. No corruption. Share the herb. Plan strategies for legalization and improving genetics. Cannabis is supposed to be about cooperation, not money and competition."

Ben Dronkers, the Sensi Seeds legend respected as a Dutch pot patriarch, also spoke candidly.

"We enjoy the Cup," he said, reciting the many Cups won by Sensi Seeds, "but it's time for a change. There are definitely problems."

Change was also a hot topic at De Dampkring, where manager Erik Bosman said he's thought about the Cup "from all sides."

"We're not sore losers," he said, noting that De Dampkring won an armful of Cup accolades in 1996 and '97.

"Want to win a Cup? All it takes is money. We saw our competitors ripping our posters down and making nasty statements. It used to be a harvest festival, but now there's a bad spirit in the Cup and with it has come fraud, greed and division. Will High Times ever change?"

Green is the colour

Will High Times change? A scandal reported on the front page of Amsterdam newspapers gives it more reason than ever to do so.

According to published reports, later confirmed by interviews with people who knew, the accounting firm supervising the tallying of Cup ballots found that three coffeeshops, voting in hash and two marijuana categories, colluded in each other's favor. The accountants notified the Cup's Woman-In-Amsterdam, Annie Riecken, who has helped High Times organize the event for several years.

Sources say High Times officials claim Riecken "fucked us" by releasing details of the cheating to the media. Other sources say she told only Hager, and that people very close to him inadvertently leaked the bad news. Riecken, they said, was being scapegoated, in part because she's not part of the High Times New York "mafia," and in part because she's a woman (High Times has absolutely no women in any significant editorial or leadership positions - it's a boys' club).

Denials, recriminations, and threats resulted. I was told that if I reported the scandal, I would be sued and/or beaten up. Others were similarly threatened. When the Cannabis Culture website ran a short piece about the scandal, and about another controversy involving whether Trans-High Corporation may have defrauded NORML, our editor and publisher received angry calls and emails from Hager and other senior HT officers.

Hager accused CC of libel, and threatened legal action. He issued a press release, stating the Cup's organizers were to blame, not the three coffeeshop judges whose ballots had been disqualified. The instructions for filling in the ballots were confusing, Hager said, and had resulted in inadvertent voting irregularities that did not affect final Cup vote tallies. Hardly anybody accepted Hager's explanation or his refusal to censure the three judges.

I stayed in Amsterdam five days after the Cup ended. Everybody wanted to talk about the "vote-rigging scheme," but everything they said was colored by inaccuracy, personal agendas, ulterior motives, spin, damage control. Many criticized the most visible male figureheads in the scandal, saying the Green House's Arjan has a proprietary relationship with Hager that skews Cup results, promotions and style. Many refer to High Times as "the 800 pound gorilla" of the pot industry.

I sent Hager emails asking for detailed explanations of the scandal, but he answered only with the vague press release, which provoked more questions than it answered.

When the dust settled, when I looked at the triangulation of my research and intuition, I found some details that seemed reliable: Three coffeeshops: the Green House, the Rokerij, and the Kruyden Huys, had made "beneficial errors" on their ballots. The accounting firm itself disqualified them, and retabulated the votes so the "errors" had no effect on final tallies. The Green House and the Rokerij won people's choice awards anyway.

High Times reps, along with Green House flaks and other Dutch High Times allies, suppressed information and implemented Clintonesque damage control. For example, they reportedly lobbied Dutch potzine "Essensie" in an apparently successful attempt to minimize scandal coverage.

Annie Riecken reluctantly admitted she was dismayed by High Times' response to the situation, but offered only an anguished attempt at optimism as her official comment:

"This year's Cup was better-run and more entertaining than any we've had. Steve and I worked hard all year to address concerns about the voting process. I am deeply saddened by this turn of events. This is not the way I wanted this Cup to be remembered."

Repentance or denial

In light of the Cup's mixed blessings and the scandal, its closing award ceremonies were especially ironic.
Malcolm Mackinnon, incarnated as Callum Francis, took the stage in a silver jumpsuit.

"If there is a God out there, he must have known we were going to be getting our ass kicked by the police and having to hire dumbass lawyers to defend us and going to jail for this plant," Mackinnon-Francis thundered. "God must have known. What the hell was He thinking? As usual, no answer. But Steve Hager did talk to God this afternoon, and He gave the thumbs up on the Cannabis Cup."

With God on his side, Hager took the stage to thank "the Dutch people" for providing "the only place on this planet that allows our tribe to be together."

"Thank you Annie Riecken, for turning the competition around and keeping it fair and honest," Hager continued. "It's not about winning. It's all good. It's all great? when this is over, I want everybody to hug each other."

But hugs were not the predominant feature of this year's Cup. The voting scandal, and High Times' response to it, has created a public relations and spiritual crisis for the organization that celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

As Dick Cowan wrote, concerning the Trans-High/NORML controversy, on his www.marijuananews.com website: "I have been surprised to find that so many people have an animosity toward High Times. HT would do well to consider why this is so and be open with its readers and the movement about the facts in this case."

Unfortunately, being open is not part of Michael Kennedy's Trans-High corporate culture, and HT officials reflexively dismiss criticism as sour grapes, jealousy, stupidity.

Hager feels unjustifiably attacked and underappreciated, but his critics do appreciate him, they just wish he'd return to his hippie roots, acquire humility, and work with international cannabis leaders to create a professional pot summit that shows marijuana users and producers as honest, respectable and intelligent. It's no longer enough that High Times can put on a mega-fun Amsterdam pot party. Can it put on a higher-consciousness, media-savvy cannabis industry conference that unites, networks and enlightens potfans from around the world?
That's the real question.

The spirit lives on

At the end of the Cup's For?ade eulogy film, after we'd witnessed a For?ade who excelled in marketing anti-establishment journalism while making life hell for those around him, the film's narrator said For?ade's "spirit lives on" in the High Times "media empire," with its radio shows, Internet television network, licensed products division, WHEE peace tour, and website.

For?ade's spirit does indeed live on, but his was a troubled spirit: abusive, defensive and self-destructive. High Times and its leaders need to remember that their founder was a mixture of angels and demons. If the magazine and its Cup are to be a true force for good, it has to more often embrace the angels, and exorcise the demons.

Otherwise, they dishonor their dead ancestor, their supporters, and the spirit of sweet mary jane, nature's kindest plant.

Cannabis Culture wants to thank Amsterdam and all the people who helped Pete Brady survive, including those sweet folks at the Cannabis College ( www.cannabiscollege.com ); Hempworks/THSeeds (Nieuwendijk 13, or email hemp@xs4all.nl ); Homegrown Fantaseeds ( www.homegrownfantasy.com ); De Kuil Coffeeshop (Oude Brugsteeg 27); Bluebird Coffeeshop (St Antoniesbresstraat 71); Interpolm Growshop ( www.interpolm.nl ); Shiva Bhang (it'll bang your skull href="http://www.bhang.com">www.bhang.com ) John and Lovely Lilly at La Canna Coffeeshop/Babe Palace/Hotel (123-25 Nieuwedijk, very near the Central Station); BCD: Cannabis Retailers Association; Ben Dronkers and the Dronkers Clan at Sensi Seeds ( www.sensiseeds.com ); De Dampkring (for having the guts to tell the truth despite the threats); De Wolkewietje; The Grasshopper (hey, who's the edible woman in the murals?); Annie Riecken; K, R, Y, C and L (someday we'll be able to use your names in an article!);

Thanks also to Bus Babe, Derry, Steve Hager, Malcolm Mackinnon, Gabe, Arjan, Simon Andrews, D-Monica; Magic Valley Smart Shop, Hotel Toren, Barge and Bargebabe, The Sensi Nurses, Laurence Cherniak. Howard Marks, Sting, David Gilmore, and Roxanne, you don't have to put on the red light...

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