High Times is a New York-based monthly magazine founded in 1974 by Tom Forcade. The publication is devoted to, and advocates the legalization of, marijuana. It is the largest cannabis-related magazine in the world. In 2008 High Times launched a digital edition of the magazine and in early 2010 began publishing the quarterly Medical Marijuana News & Reviews.
High Times has long been influential in the marijuana-using counterculture. Past contributors include Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson and Andy Warhol.
The magazine was founded in 1974 by Tom Forçade of the Underground Press Syndicate. High Times was originally meant to be a joke, "a one-shot lampoon of Playboy, substituting dope for sex," however, the magazine found an audience and, in November 2009, celebrated its 35th anniversary. Like Playboy each issue contains a centerfold photo, but instead of a nude woman, High Times typically features a choice grade of cannabis plant. In addition to high-quality photography, High Times featured cutting-edge journalism covering a wide range of topics including politics, activism, drugs, sex, music and film. Tom Forçade’s previous attempts to reach a wide counterculture audience by creating a network of underground papers had failed. Yet, through High Times, Forçade was able to get his message to the masses without relying on mainstream media. In 1988, Steven Hager was hired as editor-in-chief. He began a campaign to encourage personal use and cultivation of cannabis. Hager also founded the High Times Cannabis Cup (the Academy Awards of Marijuana) and the High Times Freedom Fighters (one of the original hemp legalization groups).
The Freedom Fighters began when Hager received an invitation to attend the annual Hash Bash in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1987. Once one of the country's largest annual legalization events, the Hash Bash, like all other counterculture rallies, was about to die out. Inspired by the art of the Merry Pranksters and Provo, and the historical information of Jack Herer's yet unpublished research, Hager created a band of activists that traveled the country in a psychedelic bus, creating major legalization events across the country, including the Boston Freedom Rally, which quickly became the largest political event in the country, drawing crowds of over 100,000 to Boston Common. In 1990, the magazine released a documentary, Let Freedom Ring, detailing the activities of the group. The film starred Willie Nelson and was directed by Bob Brandel.
Eventually, the Freedom Fighters became targeted by law enforcement. The group's biggest supporter, Rodger Belknap of West Virginia, was jailed, while other members had their homes broken into and membership information removed. After five years of providing free campgrounds and free food to activists attending major rallies, the Freedom Fighter mailing list was turned over to NORML at the annual Hash Bash convention.
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