Their Business is Weed, and Business is Good
No longer a slacker stoner throwback, marijuana mavens High Times is catching fire in the now-legal marketplace.
Dan Skye has nothing bad to say about legalization. Ask him about it twenty different ways and you’ll get twenty different enthusiastic thumbs up. If the Editorial Director of High Times has any of the anxieties endemic to the counterculture (Sell out? Well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion man) he’s extraordinarily good at burying them under the pile of good news High Times has been packing between its covers. Two states have legalized marijuana, 12 have legalized medical marijuana, and law enforcement officials across the country have gone from treating bud like a repeat offender to treating it like a well-heeled eccentric whistling his way down Main Street. That’s why Skye, a 20-year veteran of the 40-year-old magazine, is singing a new tune.
“Now that the Berlin Wall is crumbling, it’s a new era and, at High Times, we really want to see that there is no economic interference with the market,” he says, adding that the magazine has just “interviewed John Stossel from Fox News.” When Skye says the name of the libertarian commentator, sworn enemy of the daughters and sons of the Summer of Love, he sounds like a gracious, house-proud host. He’s welcoming a new person into his happy home. Makes sense. Skye’s neighborhood has gentrified considerably. The legal market is already worth over $1.5 billion and growing.
“Marijuana used to be the banner of the counterculture. In California, it’s now like St. John’s Wort or Ginseng,” says Skye. “There is no such thing as a counterculture anymore. Everything is up on Facebook.”
Still, Skye’s claim that High Times can be a normal lifestyle publication a la Southern Living or Garden and Gun without changing its focus sounds disingenuous if plausible—mass market pubs rarely engage in feature-length nerdery about topics as narrow as pH levels—until you talk about the covers. High Times has put everyone from Snoop Dogg to JFK to model MillaJovovich on the cover, but the ones that sell best off the newsstand just show bud, sticky sticky bud. “It’s a surprising fact,” says Skye, who has taken more cover photos than anyone else, “but there it is.”
People don’t read High Times because they want to feel rebellious. They read it because it’s authoritative on a subject they care about: weed.
“We expect the big advertisers to step in over the next five years,” says Skye. “We’ve always had the cultivation and nutrients companies. We’re just waiting for the day Chevrolet steps in.”
What’s more American than a pick-up truck next to some Sour Diesel? Nothing, as it turns out.