High Times loses legal challenge

Cannabis Culture has published several articles about High Times magazine and its parent company, the Trans-High Corporation (THC). After the articles ran, people from all over the world who claimed that High Times had been unethical in business dealings contacted Cannabis Culture.
One of the most interesting contacts was a man named Hans, a professional marijuana cultivator and videographer who made the “Sea of Green” instructional cultivation videos and book that High Times marketed for several years.

Hans said he’d originally contracted with High Times in 1996.

“We entered into a number of agreements with them,” Hans reported. “They kept changing the terms of everything, and having these misinterpretations of contract language. Their accounting records were wrong. They didn’t have copies of our contracts, or records of what they paid us, or how many units we had sold. They violated contract terms. They were slow to give us information about sales figures, or if they did, it was all wrong.”

Despite the problems, Hans kept working with High Times.

“When you are a marijuana grower and video maker working for High Times, it’s not like you have the same ability to go to business court like a regular business can,” he said. “I kept arguing with their accounting people, their publisher John Holmstrom, and a lawyer woman who was under their head lawyer, Michael Kennedy. That was Simone Monasebian. The accountant people admitted that everything was screwed up and that we were owed thousands of dollars, but Simone played hardball. She would say she would pay us the money owed, but only if we signed away our contractual rights. It was blackmail.”
In late 1998, Hans and his family were nearing financial ruin.

“My family was going to be homeless and starving, so I told them that if they didn’t pay me what they owed, I’d sue them,” he recalls. “In December of ’98, I was on a conference call with Holmstrom and Simone, and she said, ‘I would like to see you drag your sorry ass, with your eight children, up here to New York and try to take us to court. I know your identity. I know what you do. I know where you are. I will subpoena you, and then where will you be?’ The way she said it was a clear implication to me that she was threatening to get me busted. She knew I had a grow room set up, because I had just filmed it to complete the second Sea of Green video. A cop would’ve come to my house to serve her subpoena. I had to tear down the whole grow room and get out.”

Hans’s lawyer tried to contact THC, but company officials stonewalled.

“I told them I was homeless unless they paid me,” he said. “They didn’t care. In February of ’99, we were out on the street with our two youngest kids. We had to stay at friend’s houses and by the side of the road. My little girl was crying because she was so cold. I reached Holmstrom in May, and told him that I’d come to New York and personally take care of him if he didn’t pay me. That got his attention, and he sent some of the money owed, but I had to keep after them. Finally, I got a letter from Michael Kennedy that completely miscalculated our accounts and falsely claimed I owed $12,411 to High Times due to an overpayment. High Times later admitted there had been no overpayment. Kennedy’s letter said that they’d pay me $5000 and forgive the $12,411, but only if I signed away all rights to my work. It was pure blackmail. He gave me two days to sign it or High Times would just walk away from me.”

Hans’s attorney Warren Edson initiated action against THC in a New York arbitration court. Although THC agreed to binding arbitration, Hans claims Michael Kennedy refused to disclose required information. In late 2000, the arbitrator awarded Hans $180,000. High Times was ordered to give Hans all his videos and books in their possession.

As Cannabis Culture went to press, Edson said THC promised to pay all monies owed Hans by the end of January 2001.

“This ruling totally vindicates Hans. It sends a warning to THC that it cannot treat people in an unethical way,” said Edson. “I hope other people who have been poorly treated by High Times and THC will be empowered by this ruling.”

High Times and Trans-High Corporation did not respond to our repeated requests for comment.