Illustrations by Kelsey Dake
High Times got swept up in the rush for marijuana millions and lost its way.
The mid-May investor webinar started out unremarkably, with discussion of the company’s debt load, its prospects for an initial public offering and its plans for a stock split. Things took a turn when the string of financial jargon briefly gave way to the sound of bubbling water.
High Times Chairman Adam Levin was hitting a bong.
Since taking over three years ago, Levin has faced complaints that he is exploiting the magazine’s brand for profit without regard to its storied history in cannabis culture. His stoner street cred in doubt, Levin made a show of getting high as he fielded questions from potential investors.
“I can’t read your name because my eyes are going out after this bong,” the private equity tycoon told one questioner, before taking another hit to toast the impending legalization of medical cannabis in Virginia. Tracking stock sales in real time, he offered to smoke once more to mark the next investor who ponied up cash for shares online. Before anyone on the call could take him up on it, Levin went for it anyways.
“It didn’t even take someone investing to get me to take a bong hit,” he explained.
A few weeks later, the company blew a Securities and Exchange Commission deadline for disclosing its financial condition, forcing the stock offering to come to a halt.
High Times, long the biggest name in American weed, has fallen on hard times. Since its founding in 1974, the marijuana magazine of record has attracted a devoted audience not just among stoners who got high for fun, but also among growers and activists, who saw cannabis as a lifestyle and a cause.