This issue marks the tenth anniversary of Cannabis Culture magazine. Our first issue was dated April 1995, and we’ve experienced a lot of challenges, changes and surprises over the past 10 years.
Growth and expansion
We’ve grown a lot over the past decade, both in page count and in circulation. We printed about 4,000 copies each of our first few issues, and now we’re looking at hitting a milestone 100,000 print run later this year. At the same time, our page count has steadily climbed from 76 pages to our current 124 pages per issue.
Putting these numbers together reveals the fun fact that we printed about 75 million pages in 2005, compared to about 1.6 million magazine pages in our first year.
One thing our first three issues had, which has since been lacking, is that they were printed entirely on hemp paper! This was extremely expensive, especially as in 1995 the hemp industry was in its infancy, and hemp paper was both pricey and hard to come by. The December 1995 raid on Hemp BC, our publisher Marc Emery’s storefront, delayed printing of issue four by a few weeks, and put an end to the extravagance of hemp paper. We’d like to find a way to incorporate hemp back into our magazine, but unfortunately it is still quite cost-prohibitive.
From Canada to the world
In 1998 we changed our name from Cannabis Canada to Cannabis Culture. We had grown beyond our Canadian borders, and wanted to reflect our international coverage and global viewpoint.
Most Canadian magazines receive subsidies from the Canadian government to help them persist in the face of American split-run publications coming into Canada. In contrast, Cannabis Culture receives nothing but harassment from Canadian authorities, having been pulled off store shelves many times in our home country. Yet despite this, we are now one of Canada’s most successful magazines, and one of the very few magazines printed in Canada that sells a majority of copies in the US.
The Cannabis Culture website was one of the first on the web, and we have continued to pioneer into cyberspace. Every backissue of Cannabis Culture is available at our website in near entirety. In 2000 our publisher Marc Emery launched Pot-TV, an Internet video channel which now boasts over eight million views of their 2,300 archived shows.
Over the years, Cannabis Culture and its sister Pot-TV have received coverage in dozens of articles and reports, including major media as diverse as USA Today, CNN,Canada’s National Post, the UK Financial Times and even India’s Hindustan Times. Being profiled in these public forums gives us an excellent opportunity to further spread the good news about the benefits of marijuana.
It’s not easy making a successful magazine on any topic, and being resolutely focused on marijuana adds many more unique challenges to our efforts. Although we always receive excellent response and sales results on the newsstand, it is often difficult to convince retailers and distributors to take our controversial pro-pot magazine on in the first place.
Selling ads is also another challenge. Over the past decade the number of head shops, hemp businesses and new pot products has exploded, and so we have enjoyed a steadily rising number of advertising pages sold each issue. We are pleased to be able to offer these new companies the chance to promote themselves through our magazine.
But selling ads in a marijuana magazine remains a real challenge, as evidenced by how all the other North American pot magazines run many full-page ads for “fake pot” products. We stopped selling ad space to these companies back in issue six, as we decided we couldn’t support the use or sale of such fraudulently labeled and potentially harmful products. Although this ethical decision costs us thousands of dollars in lost ad revenues each issue, we still feel that it is the right thing to do.
CC in congress
In 1999, I had the honor of being quoted by Clinton’s drug czar, General Barry McCaffrey. In testimony before Congress, McCaffrey complained how, on the Internet, “a child can link to a site that states: ‘Overthrow the Government! Grow your own stone! It’s easy! It’s fun! Everybody’s doing it! Growing marijuana: a fun hobby the whole family can enjoy!'”
That’s us! And although McCaffrey didn’t mention Cannabis Culture by name, it was exciting to know that our magazine had been noticed by the highest levels of the US government. Sadly, McCaffrey misquoted us, as the actual webpage reads “Overgrow the government!” A subtle but important difference.
In August 2002 we launched a German-language edition of CC, called Cannabis Kultur. Over almost two years we printed 10 issues of our first spin-off publication, but in spring of 2004 CK ceased publication. Although we had excellent sales response on the newsstand, we were unable to meet our targeted ad sales and we ran out of money for this project.
Although an expensive lesson for both our organization and me personally, I am proud that we produced 10 excellent issues of Cannabis Kultur, and I continue to dream of launching spin-off translations for other continents around the world.
For me, the past decade has been full of challenges and growth, victories and defeats. My personal life is completely intertwined with this magazine and our broader enterprise of Pot-TV, the BC Marijuana Party, and all the rest. Every day I think of little else than how to make CC the best it can be, and what I can do to further the cause of legalization.
When my daughter was born in 1997 I put her on the cover of CC in an Easter basket, accompanied by a rabbit, lilies, buds and a phat unlit joint in her tiny hand. Some readers complained about our associating a baby with buds, while others applauded what they saw as a positive image.
I have always seen the role of Cannabis Culture as one to push the boundaries of the marijuana debate, and to articulate the viewpoint that marijuana is not only harmless, but is actually a positive force which provides many therapeutic benefits to its users. Marijuana relieves tension, enhances sensual pleasures, and protects against the rigors and stresses of the modern world. Many studies show that moderate marijuana users are safer drivers, have higher IQs and are generally better adjusted and healthier than non-tokers.
I am proud of our accomplishments with this magazine. Although I have been the editor since the very first issue, and I choose all the stories and content for each issue, this is by no means a single-handed effort. When we began we had only three employees in total for both the magazine and website. Now we have a dozen full-time employees and another dozen regularly contributing freelance artists and writers.
Everyone who works for CC has made sacrifices to be involved with our magazine. At various times over the past decade, CC employees have suffered pay cuts, legal threats and other unique challenges. Yet I believe that everyone who has participated in the creation of this magazine is also proud to have been part of our crusade for drug peace and marijuana freedom.
I also want to thank you, dear reader, for picking up this magazine and becoming a part of the CC family. Without you our efforts are for naught. Whether this is your first issue or your 54th, I hope you find reading Cannabis Culture to be both entertaining and educational, amusing and empowering, revealing and revolutionary.
We are a magazine with a mission. We will continue growing, spreading the good news about marijuana, and revealing the evils of the drug war for as long as we are able. Thank you for joining us on our long journey towards liberty.
Editor, Cannabis Culture Magazine