High Times, the cannabis reference magazine
In today’s article, we want to discuss one of the cornerstones of cannabis culture, the American magazine High Times, a publication born in the 70s, of which you probably have heard of. The success of this magazine has changed the way the general public sees marijuana, normalizing cannabis use and cultivation, and relating these aspects to celebrities from many different backgrounds.
Indeed, since 1970, High Times readers have been able to admire stunning double-page photos of cannabis plants, while dreaming of seeing this plant legalized and accepted by society. However, those were different times, and all that seemed a mere utopia, something very difficult to achieve in a society that hardly had any information about weed.
Today, in 2021, and after more than 40 years of High Times history, things have changed a lot, although the spirit of the publication remains the same; the cannabis reference magazine for several generations of the plant enthusiasts.
High Times, since 1974
History of High Times magazine
This famous magazine was founded in 1974 by Tom Forçade. To get a better understanding of its policies and editorial line, we should find out more about its founder. At the time, Forçade was a journalist and political activist, one of the first dissidents to throw pies at various important figures as a form of protest, as one member of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography can attest.
Back then, Tom was also involved in trafficking marijuana thanks to his experience as a pilot during his time in the US Air Force, shipping weed from Mexico and Colombia into the United States.
Thomas King Forçade, founder of High Times (Photo: Facebook)
In the 70s, Forçade settled in New York, where thanks to the money he saved from his previous activities, he founded a magazine that wanted to represent an alternative culture and politics, covering topics such as cannabis use and other psychedelic and psychoactive substances, music, and literature. The founding editor of the magazine, Ed Dwyer, was also in charge of writing the texts for the famous Woodstock music festival.
During that time, High Times was often compared to another somewhat controversial (and very popular) US magazine: Playboy. And, like this famous erotic publication, High Times also included in each issue an impressive double-page poster that would end up decorating the bedrooms of hundreds of university students.
High Times was a complete success, as the public’s response was immediate, and very soon it became a magazine with monthly issues and a print run similar to another referent of the time, the famous Rolling Stone magazine (500,000 copies). The precise sales figures at the time are hard to calculate, but Dan Skye, the magazine’s editor and a member of the editorial staff since 1992, mentions a 1978 article which estimates that High Times’ readership continued to rise, reaching more than 4 million people.
Tens of celebrities have appeared in the cover of High Times (Source: Powerhousebooks)
In November 1978, when the magazine was enjoying a resounding success, its founder Tom Forçade committed suicide at the age of 33. This unfortunate event didn’t change the editorial line of the magazine, thanks to a team that continued to respect the views of its founder year after year, and dozens of publications.
What is High Times magazine?
One of Tom Forçade’s main goals when creating this publication was to offer a different point of view on political issues while talking about cannabis, LSD or hallucinogenic mushrooms with the same spontaneity. The respect for its editorial line is the main cornerstone of the magazine’s success, cementing its reputation as the most popular countercultural publication in the world.
Although on many occasions it has adopted a peculiar and funny tone when covering a wide array of topics, this magazine has always attached great importance to the War on Drugs problem and its consequences for society. In the words of Michael Kennedy, the magazine’s long-time general counsel: “At High Times we will never forget what was done in the name of the law enforcement to our arrestees, and those who still rot in prison for daring to enjoy themselves.”
High Times, the leading cannabis magazine (Source: New York Times)
While the editorial line remains the same, times change, and so do the topics covered by High Times. Among the first published articles, you can find passages on “the best ships for smuggling” or “how not to get arrested”!
As you can see, and regardless of the era, the topics covered are varied and trendy, from beautiful pics of buds and resin extractions to articles on cultivation, politics, legalization, other psychoactive substances, music, cinema, sex, travel, DIY, etc. High Times is not afraid to discuss any topic.
The long list of editors of this publication includes names as renowned as novelist William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, or Tom Robbins, who also have collaborated regularly with their articles. You can also find interesting interviews with people like activist and novelist Susan Sontag, or philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky.
During the 1980s, the magazine printed its first publications on indoor cannabis cultivation. What initially seemed almost a practical joke has become a real industry, but it was thanks to articles like those published in High Times that people could learn how to grow cannabis in small indoor spots, what type of light they needed, or which photoperiod apply to their plants.
Tommy Chong holds the magazine cover record with 8 appearances (Source: Celebstoner)
Unfortunately, the 1990s was a difficult time for the American cannabis community, and High Times was no exception. The publication attracted the interest of the government, and soon the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) was busy seizing magazines, visiting the stores that advertise through them, and confiscating their customer lists.
High Times from the year 2000
In 2004, High Times underwent a sudden change, giving up cannabis and the amazing bud photos to focus on literature. Despite the fact that this was led by a talented new editor, John Buffalo Mailer (son of Norman Mailer), the effort was unsuccessful, and after just a few months, the magazine cover made its intentions clear: “The Buds are Back!” The publication returned to its initial main subject and has continued to cover cannabis-related topics till the present.
Today, and despite the fierce competition represented by online publications and the creation of online content, things are going well for High Times. Thanks to the recent growing wave of legalization in many states, the cannabis community is getting bigger, and in 2017, High Times relocated its operational base to Los Angeles, one of today’s marijuana capitals in the world. Needless to say, High Times also has a big presence on the internet, with a website that receives close to 5 million visits every month.
Long live High Times!
High Times has organized the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam since 1988 (Source: Devilsharvest)
Who is Subcool? The legendary cannabis breeder, explained.
Though personal setbacks and deteriorating health afflicted the legendary cannabis breeder Subcool, he maintained a passion for cannabis throughout his life, committing his time to grow acclaimed strains and giving back to medical cannabis patients. In death, he’s remembered for his relentless dedication to the plant, along with his desire to bring relief and hope to growers and patients alike.
Subcool’s story is one of positive devotion, despite the misfortunes that plagued him. His tenacity and passion still rings throughout the industry and truly shows how a wholehearted and thoughtful grower can make beneficial and community-oriented strides in an increasingly cold industry.
Subcool’s cannabis legacy
At the end of September 2019, High Times published an interview with legendary cannabis breeder and cultivator Subcool. In the piece, he expressed enthusiasm and optimism about the future, despite some challenging setbacks in previous years and a serious medical condition called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a progressive lung disease and genetic type of emphysema that he’d been battling since 2013. Sadly, fewer than six months later, Subcool succumbed to the disease on February 1, 2020, leaving behind a legacy matched by few in the cannabis industry.
Born Montgomery Ball, he was also called Dave Bowman and is known to the cannabis world as Subcool. An unparalleled grower and breeder, he was the founder of Team Green Avenger seeds (TGA Subcool Seeds/TGA Genetics/The Dank) and is the genius behind cultivars like Jack the Ripper and Space Queen.
Subcool’s passion for cannabis dates back to the 1970s when he began growing and selling cannabis, an activity that landed him in jail in the illegality of that time. Undeterred upon his release, Subcool went straight back to growing and found himself once again in custody, which subsequently led to a stint in prison. Far from being “rehabilitated,” Subcool emerged passionate and determined to change cannabis laws for the better.
Industry celebrations and personal setbacks
Among his many accolades, Subcool was inducted into the High Times Seed Bank Hall of Fame in 2009, won the High Times San Francisco Medical Cannabis Cup with his sativa cultivar Vortex in 2010, and later received the High Times Dr. Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. He also authored the books Dank: The Quest for the Very Best Marijuana: A Breeders Tale, and Dank 2.0: The Quest for the Very Best Marijuana Continues, and demonstrated to the world his love for growing and breeding on his YouTube channel in a show called Weed Nerd.
Subcool’s High Times interview also revealed that his lung disease diagnosis in 2013 was only the first in a series of consequential setbacks to unfold in the coming years. Both his health and his relationship with his wife and business partner, MzJill, had been deteriorating, though they continued to work together on TGA Genetics (The Green Avengers).
But it was the Tubbs Fire — at the time the most destructive wildfire in California history — that ripped through Santa Rosa, California on October 8, 2017, and catalyzed the events that would shape Subcool’s life in his last years. MzJill and Subcool were personally unharmed by the fire, but their home was burned to the ground and they lost everything, including physical business assets such as nearly four million cannabis seeds and male and female breeding plants. The couple parted soon after.
Now homeless and ill, Subcool began to pick up the pieces. Shortly after the fire, he formed a business partnership with William Rouland and managed to recreate and distribute “44 Dank” strains worldwide. They were able to eventually rebuild Subcool’s core strains, such as Jack the Ripper, Vortex, and Querkle, while he continued to experiment and create new strains.
He also collaborated with Kyle Kushman in a partnership nicknamed “the Dank Brothers,” where he traded his strawberry Daiquiri strain (Strawberry Cough x Space Queen) to reacquire Strawberry Cough. The Dank Brothers also partnered on the fruity Strelka strain, a cross of Subcool’s Space Queen and Kushman’s Stardawg.
Remembering Subcool and paying it forward
Even as he managed to rebuild some of the heritage lost in the fire, he surrendered the TGA Genetics IP in mediation during an acrimonious and public divorce with MzJill. He also surrendered the rights to the strains Ace of Spades, Agent Orange, Black Dahlia, Brian Berry Cough, Jillybean, Orange Velvet, Plushberry, and Timewreck. Despite more setbacks, he pushed on, vowing to continue the work with his 44 Dank strains.
Subcool moved to Arizona where he became a medical cannabis patient and began a state-approved 60-plant grow in a pool he had drained. Companies like Solis Tek, Smart Pot, and Dragonfly Earth Medicine donated supplies, and in a continuing effort to pay it forward, Subcool gave the cannabis from his grow to medical cannabis patients for free.
Toward the end of his life, Subcool teamed up with William Rouland and Eli Harding to work on a new grow facility in an old bowling alley. He told High Times contributor Danny Danko, “We will grow in my Super Soil using my methods and grow as close to organically as possible, even though it isn’t required in Arizona. The Dank will set new standards for packaging, testing, and distribution.”
After his passing, his industry peers remembered him as a pioneer who inspired a new generation of younger growers to creatively experiment and plant the seed for good.