The Big 4-0

The marijuana magazine of record hits middle age.

If you were to check out the “40th Birthday” section in the greeting-card aisle of any store, you’d undoubtedly find numerous cards that joke about being bald, out of shape and over the hill. I should know—I received one myself when I turned 40 not long ago. Predictably, there are a handful of haters out there who try to portray High Times in much the same manner: as some relic run by aging tie-dyed hippies. But in reality, they couldn’t be more wrong: Like me, HT may have been born in the 1970s, but it has evolved with the times and is now more successful—and relevant—than ever.

To illustrate that point, friends and fans of the mag of all ilk and age—activists, actors, advertisers, alumni, comedians and Cannabis Cup winners—gathered atop a rooftop bar in NYC’s Lower East Side for an invitation-only 40th anniversary blowout this past October. It was a ganja-fueled gala complete with open bar, specialty cocktails with real pot-leaf garnishes, a sparkly pot-leaf-shaped piñata stuffed with some 500 joints…

and a stupendous three-tiered green-velvet cake (courtesy of my pal Jessa Blavatsky at Slaytanicakes).

On the green carpet, I had the honor of interviewing some of the more notable attendees, including comic Jackie “the Jokeman” Martling (of Howard Stern fame)…

legalization legends Dana Beal (creator of the Million Marijuana March) and Keith Stroup (founder of NORML) …

cannabusiness moguls Don and Aaron of DNA Genetics …

and Giddyup of Emotek Labs …

and of course Charlo Greene, the Alaskan newscaster turned dispensary owner who became an overnight Internet sensation with her controversial on-air resignation (“Fuck it—I quit!”). It was this audacious outburst, along with her eloquent arguments for legalization that followed, that inspired us to present Greene with a new HT Courage In Media award.

And let’s face it: If anyone knows about courage in media, it’s High Times. Four decades ago, a clandestine clique of smugglers, activists and editorially-minded outlaws got together and created a magazine to glorify their illegal escapades and attack the establishment, at the risk of incurring the wrath of the formidable forces of prohibition. Among that motley crew of miscreants was HT’s original editor, Ed Dwyer, who—along with former editors Bob Sacks and Andy Kowl—was among the evening’s revelers.

During our interview, they regaled me with tales about being paid in cannabis seeds, hiding bags full of guns and cash, and throwing those infamous nitrous-tank-fueled parties.

“That was our trademark in the early days,” Kowl boasted. “When we were doing what we were doing, we didn’t know if it was legal. When we took a photograph, we didn’t know if that would become evidence against us. No one had ever done that before.”

And no one else would have the nerve to follow our example for decades. In all that time, High Times continued to push boundaries and break taboos. Now, as marijuana legalization sweeps the nation, we’re finally in the catbird’s seat. In the past several years, we’ve added some 50 pages and gone from one Cannabis Cup a year to six—with more events on the way. So to anyone who’d like to characterize High Times as “over the hill,” allow me to retort with the words of beloved Peanuts creator Charles Schulz: “Just remember, once you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.”

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