Whither High Times?

This issue contains two related articles about High Times magazine. One is a follow-up on last issue’s piece on the Forcade trust, and whether HT was supposed to have been giving half its profits to NORML. The other is about the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, the conflicts and turbulence which surround it, and a vote-rigging scandal which HT apparently tried to cover up.
I know that these stories will both be controversial and that some people will not like that we have printed them. Portions of these articles have appeared on the internet, and they have already created quite a stir among some members of the marijuana community. Reading my HT-NORML article on p20 shows that our investigation of this issue has raised some hackles at NORML as well.

Traditionally, our review of the High Times Cannabis Cup has brought us into conflict with HT staff. Our publisher Marc Emery wrote our first Cup review, which appeared in the January 1995 edition of the Marijuana and Hemp Newsletter, which preceeded this magazine. In it, Marc made complaints which have been repeated by us in many reviews of subsequent cups. They can be boiled down to: “The Cup was disorganized, but we all had fun nevertheless.”

Marc explains that “High Times editor Steve Hager accused me of having Ed Rosenthal ghost-write the criticism I had of a typical lame Cannabis Cup. I had not even seen Ed for over three years at the time that happened, but Steve virtually fired Ed over this insane accusation, and went ballistic in a number of weird correspondence.”

Some might think that we have it in for High Times, that we are seeking to discredit or destroy them for our own benefit. Yet I don’t believe that the success of Cannabis Culture depends upon the failure of High Times. In the ever-expanding marijuana marketplace, there is room enough for a variety of pot-zines. There are now over eight pot-zines in Europe and a handful of North American magazines (like Mountainfreak and Vice) which include pot-culture news in their repertoire of stories. I fully expect more pot magazines to pop up over the coming year. I welcome more magazines into the pot-culture fold. There is strength in numbers, and there is room enough for us all to thrive if we want to.

Marc Emery was the first one to distribute High Times in Canada after the 1988 drug-info ban. He broke the literature prohibition and sold HT to stores and even door-to-door, eventually distributing thousands of copies each month. Emery explains “their own distribution company was too afraid to do it, so I did it single handedly for over a year, until High Times‘ own distributor informed me, without any thanks or acknowledgement of my risky, pioneering work, that they were taking over and I could no longer distribute High Times to any business, store or outlet handled by their distribution company. Now that I had paved the way, I was expendable.”

When Cannabis Culture and Hemp BC were reeling from police raids in 1998, we had a large stock of High Times magazines and backissues left over. Police seizures had wiped out our wholesale and mail-order divisions, and so we could not sell the magazines the police had left us. HT initially agreed to take them back, but then shipped them back to us, telling us we had to pay for them. It took us almost 2 years but we have finally paid off this massive debt.

As the visibility of CC has increased, I have had more and more people come to me with complaints about their experiences with High Times. From people like our own Senior Contributor Pete Brady, who has filed a Writer’s Union grievance that he has not been paid for a number of stories he wrote for them. Or Hans of the Sea of Green, Growing Sinsemilla Marijuana and other videos, who claims HT has not paid him thousands of dollars owed for selling his products. Or Mari Kane, founder of HempWorld magazine, or Matthijs Huijgen of HempWorld and the HempCyberFarm, or Ed Rosenthal, or Don Wirtshafter, or any one of the many other people who have dealt with HT and who have gone out of their way to inform me of the poor way in which they were treated.

I don’t enjoy running articles which I know many will interpret as counter-productive infighting. Yet I am obligated to cover major happenings in the cannabis industry and marijuana movement, and High Times is the among the biggest cannabis industries there is.

Please write to me and let me know what you think of these stories and our ongoing coverage of issues like these. Are we being biased, unfairly targeting our competition with senseless finger-pointing, or are we discussing issues that need to be discussed, and shedding light upon the dark corners of the marijuana movement? I know my answer, but I’d like to know what our readers think.

Dana Larsen
Editor, Cannabis Culture

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