Baking Bad: A Potted History of ‘High Times’
Bobby Black (senior editor): It used to be, back in the day, it was always rock—psychedelic rock in the ’60s and ’70s—that was the music associated with pot. Then hip-hop came out—well, and reggae, of course, because of the Rasta culture—and they embraced pot in a big way. The thing that’s changed now is that I’m noticing pop stars like Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber really embracing pot. And it’s not that pop stars never smoked weed before; it’s just that now they’re out about it and don’t really care. It’s become so accepted that the new generation is just like, “So what?”
Dan Skye: Jennifer Aniston! I think she would sell, because we know that she smokes pot—we’ve heard about it for years. We tried; we got no response. And Miley Cyrus is great. We did a poll a few months back: “What celebrity would you most like to smoke with?” And she scored higher than Bill Maher, which we thought was really kind of funny.
Bobby Black: When the magazine started, all throughout the ’70s, sex was an integral part of it. We had beautiful women on the cover. We walk a fine line with it, because we don’t want to be exploiting women. On the other hand, those covers were sexy—and there is nothing wrong with sex. I’ve always stressed this: High Times is about hedonism. But it isn’t about irresponsible, over-the-top hedonism—it’s about enjoying everything life has to offer, and sex is part of that. But the reason we don’t put [former porn star] Jenna Jameson in her bathing suit on the cover anymore is because the sales just weren’t there. Our readers would rather stare at centerfolds of plants—and that’s just the facts we have learned over the years.
David Bienenstock: We’ve never promised a cover to anyone, but if a currently pot-smoking prominent politician is interested in the cover, they should definitely get in touch and talk to us about an exclusive.
Chris Simunek: What I’ve really wanted for High Times is to have more journalism in general. It could be hard-hitting journalism; it could be gonzo journalism. I just want the magazine to have a good read in every single issue—because, if left unchecked, it will by nature fill up with pot pictures and grow stories and stuff like that. It’s almost like I’m the mom at the head of the table saying, “Everybody’s got to eat their vegetables!” I want to maintain the tradition that we’ve always had of having quality journalism in the magazine.
Steve Hager: Have you looked at any of the issues I put out? Because they’re filled with conspiracy stories of deep political events, and incredible forays in counterculture history… and now the magazine just promotes marijuana: “Grow it and smoke it and, now, dab it! And wake up at 7:10 and do some bong hits.” It’s a balls-to-the-wall, marijuana-everything magazine. And that’s just making money off marijuana—I don’t think anybody would argue with that statement…. But make money—go, go, go. I’m not anti-capitalist and I’m not anti–big business. That’s not where I’m going to go, but I’m not going to try and stop you. I’m happy with my little magic show here.
Chris Simunek: We do have the High Times haters up there. We just did a cover on dabs. “Dabs” is concentrated hash oil, which is created by a volatile chemical process, similar to the way you would create perfume or rosemary oil. It’s controversial because a lot of kids—I don’t know if they are kids—a lot of idiots who don’t know what they’re doing are renting hotel rooms and cooking this stuff up and blowing themselves up the way meth labs used to blow up. It’s a highly controversial new element to the marijuana world. We are covering it, and we’ve told people how to make dabs safely, but there’s an element that thinks we should be the morality police of the marijuana world. And there’s also this whole crunchy-granola aspect of the marijuana subculture which doesn’t want anything to do with that, and so they’re like: “How dare you? Dabs is like hard drugs! Dabs is this, dabs is that.” Then there’s another element that says we should not tell anybody what to do. So we’re never gonna please everybody at the same time, and I think that’s fine.
Steve Hager: My generation just smoked joints. The next generation went to bong hits. If you grow up smoking bong hits, you can’t smoke joints, because you need that power. And now it’s dabs. Dabbing’s perfectly cool—dab away. But when the sirens are calling, are you going to be able to pull back, or are you going to crash on the rocks? Because if you crash on the rocks… just be advised.
Do I wish my cannabis rituals and other things were still going on? Yeah, but you know what? They are going on. I passed these things down, and people picked up on them, and you see little elements of my rituals all over the cannabis movement. At 4/20, people will be lighting the seven candles of peace. All magic is the same. It doesn’t matter—you can call it religion or whatever you want, but it’s all based on bell, book and candle. These are the elements that are used to manifest prayer and meditation.
David Bienenstock: The biggest change in the ten years I’ve been with High Times—not that long ago in political years—is that, back then, people would say, “Why are you working on pot legalization? That’s never going to happen.” And now people say, “Oh, you’re working on pot legalization? That’s inevitable.” So that’s been the huge change. And I think what’s exciting is that the world is coming around to where High Times was at its founding—long before I was involved, or even alive.
Chris Simunek: We used to change people’s identities a lot. Back then, when you’re talking to a guy breaking a federal law which is going to land him in jail for quite a few years, I didn’t have any journalistic qualms about saying he came from Alabama when he came from Ohio, you know? I remember being blindfolded in the back of a car and being brought to some growroom in the basement of a guy’s house… that’s how paranoid he was. Now I get people e-mailing me with their full name and address saying, “I want you to come to my 5,000-square-foot house in Colorado—and bring your photographers.” I just think the access has changed, and people aren’t afraid anymore.
Jen Bernstein: When I took my job at High Times, I spoke with my parents and explained to them what I was joining. My dad knew what it was and my mom didn’t. But they feel like if it’s meant to be, it will be. And now my dad came with me to the Cannabis Cup and was a worker and got a High Times hoodie. My dad is in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he wears this hoodie that says “Cannabis Cup,” and people stop him and are like, “Oh, did you go to the Cup?” And he’s like, “Yeah, I did. I worked there.” So I think they’re proud of me now, and all their friends know what it is even though they may not smoke pot themselves…. How would your parents take it?