High Times shake-up

Cannabis Culture has received several copies of a 15-page document titled “The Trans-High Charitable Trust.” Trans-High Corporation (THC) is the parent company of High Times magazine, founded in 1974 by Thomas King Forcade. This document indicates that THC is about to undergo a change in structure, with the ownership of High Times to be divided among the current staff of the magazine.

Meanwhile, THC may be facing a lawsuit from NORML for not giving them funds as intended by Forcade.

Founder Forcade

Born in 1945, Thomas King Forcade was a brilliant, iconoclastic and troubled individual. High Times articles and cartoons have long portrayed him as a paradoxical smuggler-idealist who came of age in Utah, was beaten up by police in the late 60’s, threw a pie in the face of a government official in 1970, and founded High Times in 1974.

Varying descriptions of Forcade are posted on the High Times website, but his biography reveals a man deeply committed to changing the world. In a November, 1976 High Times article, Forcade wrote that if THC “should make any excess profits, they will be given to organizations concerned with social, political, and economic change.”

The THC trust document, initiated on August 1, 1974 by Forcade and his attorneys, reinforces the founder’s idealism: “Grantor [Forcade] has established this trust? to improve the quality of life and freedom of spirit for the world in which we live.”

Forcade further instructed the THC trust (and its administrators, called trustees) to distribute “any moneys, property, or other wealth? to the charitable and nonprofit entities which are set forth in the Schedule of Beneficiaries attached to this trust.”

The document continues: “Grantor intends that the judicious distribution of moneys or lending of moneys to worthy causes shall foster and save those organizations which benefit our society.”

The Schedule of Beneficiaries attached to the trust lists two beneficiaries: Alternative Media Access Corporation, and NORML (“National Organization to Reform the Marijuana Laws”). The Schedule says each entity is entitled to receive 50% of residual THC trust properties.

The trust document specifies 12 successor trustees responsible for carrying out Forcade’s wishes. The current trustee is Michael Kennedy, who also acts as THC attorney. Following his name on the list is Dr Andrew Weil, the now-famous naturopathic physician and author.

In 1978, Forcade handed the trust to the trustees in the most forceful way possible; he committed suicide by shooting himself in the forehead with a pearl-handled .22 caliber pistol.

Follow the money

The trust document stipulates that “on January 1st of the year 2000, the Trustees shall distribute any money or property then in the trust to the beneficiaries named in the Schedule of Beneficiaries.” It also orders distribution of THC stock shares to “loyal employees and their heirs who have served the corporation or its subsidiaries” for a period longer than ten years “between January 1, 1976 through December 31, 1999, on a prorated basis?”

All sources who spoke to Cannabis Culture for this article insisted on absolute anonymity. Sources close to High Times say the stock distribution plan has created internal dissension and apprehension, as employees and officers jockey for position while freelancers and others wonder who will own and run THC, and what effect this will have on their jobs and High Times’ policies and style.

But the larger issue involves THC’s relationship to NORML. Conservative estimates based on the trust document and analysis of THC profits indicate that THC may owe NORML $10 million or more. If this is true, how will NORML be compensated?

Cannabis Culture repeatedly contacted the Manhattan office of THC’s trustee/attorney, Michael Kennedy, trying to get answers to these questions. He didn’t respond to our requests for a comment or interview. Kennedy is also reportedly the top corporate officer of The Hemp Company of America, its retail outlet known as Planet Hemp, and Hemp Times magazine.

A prominent hemp industry official told Cannabis Culture that “Many of us who have seen the Forcade Trust believe that the money that should have gone to NORML actually went to The Hemp Company of America, their magazine, and their hemp store. A lot of us believe that the millions that should have gone to NORML were spent putting Mari Kane of Hempworld out of business and taking over the hemp industry.”

A source connected with NORML also mentioned Kennedy.

“NORML has had a long relationship with Trans-High,” the source said. “They have given NORML free ads and free editorial space. But NORML had a fiduciary responsibility to investigate the Trust agreement, and when we contacted Mr Kennedy, he basically pled guilty. My understanding is that he admitted that THC has not given NORML what it was due. We are flabbergasted by this admission.”

Sources within NORML indicate that a lawsuit may be launched if satisfactory resolution is not reached.