Ronn TorossianRonn Torossian

Drugs were still illicit during the salad days of the mid-70s, but they were fast becoming a significant part of popular culture. Everyone knew many pop musicians used, and marijuana was popular, despite being illegal coast-to-coast.

Enter seminal weed culture magazine High Times. The publication may have started as a bit of a pothead parody of “Playboy,” but High Times soon built up a dedicated readership all its own. What started as a joke found an audience, so its publisher had to figure out a way to put the publication on a paying basis. That led to advertisements for grow lights and paraphernalia, all with a knowing wink and nod toward the law enforcement officials who couldn’t stop the magazine from promoting a culture that, once again, everyone knew was illegal.

Feature articles followed, written about pot-friendly performers whose reputations included, along with the music, a strong connection to pot and pop culture icons. Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog showed up on the cover, along with Johnny Rotten, Ice Cube, Oliver Stone, John Lennon, and even some less pot-friendly faces, including JFK.

Pot has since gone mainstream. With eight states and the District of Columbia legalizing recreational use of marijuana and several others opting to allow it for “medical” or “religious” purposes, there’s a growing legal demand for information about the drug. So, along with the plant it has always celebrated, High Times appears to be going mainstream.

A group of investors — including, appropriately, Bob Marley’s son, Damian — have now purchased the publication for about $70 million. So much for the claim that print is dead. It’s not surprising when you look at the numbers, though. According to CNN, the market for legal marijuana could be more than $21 billion in the next three years. That’s a lot of people wanting to know about the mysteries of the formerly forbidden bud.

The publication will be looking to connect with new markets, and the ownership seems aware of this need, releasing a statement that said, in part: “Riding this huge new wave of normalization in society, the new owners see huge opportunities to expand the High Times brand into new frontiers."

This expansion into these new frontiers will require owners and publishers to understand who lives in these new frontiers, what they are looking for and what they want to read. It’s a cinch High Timeswill still offer plenty for the rock-n-roll crowd, but longtime readers should not be surprised when they also have some content to appeal to the casual or medical user as well. A bigger tent means more options, and that kind of transition isn’t always easy.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent PR Agency.