When High Times was founded in 1974, it became the go-to advertising platform for the rapidly expanding paraphernalia industry. Previously relegated to tiny ads in the classified sections of music and porno magazines, suddenly the manufacturers of bongs, rolling papers, scales and coke spoons were able to purchase as much advertising space as they wanted in a magazine wholly devoted to tokers, trippers and sundry other dopers. As High Times was the only magazine that catered exclusively to the psychonauts of the ‘70s, copies flew off newsstands as fast as it could print them. But the true secret to its success was the fact that it tapped into the exploding underground paraphernalia market, whose advertising dollars kept High Times afloat. At one point, High Times founder Tom Forçade created a sister publication, Dealer, to further accommodate those companies’ demand for ad space.
One of the first companies to come knocking was American Dream rolling papers. After a trip to a 1971 May Day protest in Washington, DC that shut the capital down, Massachusetts native Michael Garjian saw a potential market opening in the crowd of 12,000 young pot-friendly rebels.
“Weed was the bond that held the anti-war and hippie movements together,” he says. “If you met a new person, it wasn’t long before someone asked ‘Hey man, are you a head?’ If one was, a new friendship was born. If not, well, on to the next freaky-looking person.”
Before blunts, glass bongs and oil rigs, rolling papers reigned supreme as the stoner’s go-to THC delivery mechanism. American Dream distinguished itself by creating custom packages adorned with the counterculture heroes of the day—the Furry Freak Brothers, Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural, Willie Nelson, John and Yoko, Funkadelic and Peter Tosh to name a few. Long before the seeds of the Cannabis Cup germinated in the mental rockwool of its founder Steve Hager in 1986, trade shows like the National Fashion and Boutique Show in NY were the meeting ground for headshop owners, paraphernalia hawkers and other cannabis capitalists.
“The Boutique Show was definitely something everyone looked forward to,” Garjian remembers. “It had more traditional clothing companies, yet gathered an eclectic group of freaks gone entrepreneurial. It was hard work, but you had a chance to hang out with the people you didn’t get to see every day, and there were the parties. It was a great place to catch a buzz during the day while still accomplishing something.”
It was at the National Fashion and Boutique Show in the mid-‘70s that the concept for High Times was first announced via an 11” x 17” gold-embossed brochure aimed at potential advertisers, and promising groundbreaking articles like “The Hashmaker’s Art” and “I Was Kennedy’s Dealer.”
Garjian hooked up with High Times’ first publisher Andy Kowl, and remembers being invited to a basement somewhere in New York where the fledgling marijuana mag was being assembled. In a trade for ad space, American Dream printed the custom High Times rolling papers seen here. Over the years they have become collectibles, with one pack recently selling for $500, according to Garjian.
While the fires of prohibition continue to be snuffed out, and the social, legal and political stigmas associated with marijuana are flicked to the wind like ash, it’s easy to forget cannabis culture’s radical beginnings.
“You have to understand that in 1967, weed was no different in the lexicon than smack,” Garjian says. “If you smoked it, you were a revolutionary. It set you apart from those good boys and girls who did as they were told, who lined up without resistance at their draft boards, or who were too busy to try it because they were most serious about their studies. If you sold it, you were a revolutionary. If you sold any product associated with it, you were a revolutionary. And if you were smoking it while you were laying in the streets at a demonstration, you were a stoned-out horizontal revolutionary.”