Existing for more than 40 years, the popular High Times magazine that used to symbolize counterculture is starting to enter the mainstream consciousness by rebranding itself as an integral part of the marijuana economy. After all, the legal marijuana industry is now estimated to be worth $3 billion, and is expected to increase tenfold by 2020.
Aside from being a monthly print magazine, it has also expanded its coverage to include digital content, video production, and live events. Just last September 2015, its parent company Trans-High Corp (or THC, pun intended) appointed a new CEO in David Kohl, a former executive at Nokia and Viacom. THC also added a COO early this month: Larry Linietsky from Universal Music Group and Napster.
As the new CEO, Kohl has a lot of big goals in mind. For instance, the magazine released the first Trail Blazers list of the 50 most influential people in the cannabis industry last December. He also plans to establish a High Times seal of approval, “something that will sit outside of High Times and has very strict standards,” he said. The magazine is also launching a “consumer reports platform” similar to Wine Spectator’s ratings and review section, but only for cannabis strains and edibles. Kohl is also expanding High Times’ video team in order to keep up with other media.
But the content of High Times is not the only thing that Kohl wants to change. He is also planning to hold a cannabis business conference later this year for marijuana startup CEOs.
“Let’s be really expansive and think about all the business possibilities in this space,” Kohl said. “Imagine a chamomile ginger tea infused with THC at a super-low dosage that helps you sleep or relax. Think about the next time you go for a massage, a cannabis-infused oil that seeps into your muscles and helps your muscles relax. There are so many products that can be infused with cannabis that, at a low dosage, will help you in a mild way.”
This way, Kohl is hoping to shift the magazine’s readership from stoners to entrepreneurs. “This isn’t Cheech and Chong anymore,” he said. “The industry has gone from that stoner image to something much more mainstream.” He even went so far as asking his staff to use “adult use” instead of “recreational” to depict cannabis used for non-medicinal purposes, as the former clearly indicates that marijuana is for people 21 years and up.
Kohl also wants to create a softer version of High Times “that might be a little more female-skewing for women aged 18-35, because that audience typically hasn’t come to the High Times platform.”
But like all other cannabis-associated businesses, one problem that High Times is facing is the refusal of major banks to grant them bank accounts. With marijuana still illegal at the federal level, banks cannot risk having regulators punish them for offering financial services to cannabis companies.
While High Times cannot do anything about it, Kohl said that it can at least “address the issue” by becoming an advocate. The magazine plans to launch a political platform in March called High Times Road to the White House, which will feature interviews with candidates regarding their view on cannabis legalization and regulation.
Ultimately, cannabis companies also need to contribute to change the way that the marijuana industry is perceived. For instance, they can become more transparent by showing detailed ingredients on their cannabis products.
“That needs to happen in short order to prove to the American public that we are doing the right thing,” Kohl concluded.
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