Boycott High Times & Boycott the Cannabis Cup

I was fired by High Times for requesting a small raise to cover the cost of my kid’s braces ($250 per month). At the time my take-home pay did not even cover the rent on my apartment, and I had a disabled family member I was taking care of that required an additional location, and was a single dad with two kids. They dismissed any possible raise, even though the cannabis cup I created was making millions, and the magazine circulation had shrank to unprofitablity without my leadership. This angered me so much that I requested a buy out on the ten percent of the company I owned. They said, see what you can get. I got four offers at $250k per share, half my shares. High Times fired me, threatened me with litigation, seized all my archives, and forced me to give up the shares for less than a quarter on the dollar. And then they didn’t even honor the bullshit deal.

Why was I so angry at High Times? Mostly because I’d recently got back from lunch with the head of Lion’s Gate and his top execs and they had greenlighted a $2-million movie called High Times Cannabis Cup, and after that lunch, Lion’s Gate hired a screenwriter, who met with me and the producers, and wrote a brilliant script that was a comedy, yet it included all my concepts on ritual theater, and non-violence, and cannabis ceremonies, and really gave props to the Temple Dragon Crew, and the Temple Dragon Band, and used the candles in the film. This was going to be my vindication after being chained in a cellar for seven years by High Times, only High Times squashed the film by saying they had to take out the Temple Dragons and all their magic.

They couldn’t even respect my humble little attempt to tell the world that the true story of the holy grail involves cannabis.

Stand up for the counterculture and stand against the corporate greed fest. Boycott High Times and boycott their unholy, money-grubbing Cannabis Cup. Please help spread the word.


The first Rainbow Gathering 420 ceremony

imagesI first met Jack Herer at a NORML conference in Washington, DC. There really wasn’t much of a chance for us to connect there since Jack and John Sajo were working hard on their initiative in Oregon. So shortly after I returned to New York City, and Jack returned to LA, I booked a ticket to visit him to share a vision I’d had after reading an early and brief version of The Emperor Wears No Clothes.

We met at a plush house with a pool in the back. This was not Jack’s pad, but something much more polished. We sat around the pool while I ran my tape recorder and went through Jack’s life story in 45 minutes or so. Then we moved back into the kitchen to smoke a joint and drink some ice tea.

While in the kitchen, I unhatched my scheme. I needed Jack to join the hemp legalization group I’d created through a cartoon character named Ed Hassle. What started as a goof, had suddenly morphed into a viable foundation for a national hemp movement. Using my background in improvisational ritual theater, I’d already had a vision of people marching for hemp freedom, led by a Colonial-style fife and drum corps wearing tricorn hats and flying American flags. Because the founding fathers were hemp farmers and recognized the strategic value of hemp, we needed to take back these symbols from the right wing, who had commandeered them unfairly for propaganda purposes. “I need you as a leader in The Freedom Fighters,” I told Jack. “By dressing up in Paul Revere outfits, we’re more likely to get on the television news, and if we get interviewed, we can talk about the history of hemp in America.”

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 12.43.52 PMNORML didn’t support rallies at the time, mostly because news photos of ragtag hippies didn’t project a suitable image for forging a broad-based pro-marijuana coalition. There was always somewhat of a divide between the Grateful Dead clan, epitomized by Jack, and the more conservative faction, some of whom were lawyers and felt the hippie era was over. I was willing to work with both sides, but bringing back mass rallies was key if we were going to educate the nation quickly about hemp saving the world.

I had a two-pronged plan: 1) Jack needed to go to the Rainbow Family Gathering with me. The Rainbow Family had already accepted marijuana as a legitimate sacrament, even though it’s use was not permitted near Felipe’s Kid Village. I’d recently gone to the Minnesota National (in 1990), and been zapped. My entire world view turned around as I realized the ideals of the 1960s were alive and we could live in a world without violence, if only for a few weeks a year. The gathering was the perfect place to incubate an environmental awakening around hemp.

2) We needed to attend the Hash Bash in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which was the last surviving great pot rally from the late 1960s. But the Hash Bash had dwindled down to a dozen die-hards, and they were worried the event was about to become extinct. Not only did we need to rebuild the Hash Bash, but we needed to bring back all the other Big Ten pot rallies in the neighboring states. “We’ll call it The Hemp Tour.” Some of this conversation ended up on that audio tape, so I plan to dig that out someday and transcribe it so I can prove these facts.

The Freedom Fighters rolled into the Vermont gathering in full force, but tensions in the camp prevented harmony and Jack didn’t attend far as I remember. The next national Rainbow Gathering was in Colorado and held at a very high elevation, and there was a long, uphill march to the site, followed by a long down hill march. I got pretty tired on the way in, because I pitched camp midway to main circle, on a ridge overlooking the entire gathering. I put my tent up in a small patch of trees and started erecting signs and flags. Jack trailed in near dark with about seven people in tow, none of whom carried camping gear or even a warm coat. Once it got really dark, they started wondering how they were going to survive the night. I suggested they keep close to the fire. Meanwhile, Jack had a huge medical emergency that started with something he ate and just escalated from there. He’d forgotten to bring his ulcer pills but didn’t provide that essential info to any of the CALM healers for around 48 hours, so nobody could figure out why he was in so much pain. I ended up taking a hit of acid just to stay up all night to help take care of him. It was just me and another brother feeding the fire to keep Jack’s entourage from freezing to death.

Since our location was right on the trail, and my psychedelic signs were effective, we drew some huge audiences to our daily 420 ceremonies and took advantage of the natural amphitheater that had initially attracted me to the spot. One brother saw my 420 sign coming in and got really excited. I guess he was from Marin county, because he said he wanted to name his tea kitchen 420 and encourage people to gather there to smoke pot, but was worried that might conflict with our own ceremony. “That’s ok,” I assured him. “Just let people know Jack Herer and Steve Hager are doing a 420 ceremony here every day. The major part of this ceremony was a sermon on hemp by Jack, who was still working on polishing his hemp rap. I’d already developed my approach, which was cannabis was the sacrament of peace culture, and 420 represented our holiday, one for celebrating non-violence.

When the Freedom Fighters marched into the Diag at the University of Michigan that year, Jack and I were all dressed up in our tricorn hats. Dozens of people had already joined our fledging organization due to full-page ads in High Times and the Freedom Fighters were all dressed up in amazing costumes. I saw Steve DeAngelo standing on the steps as we paraded in, flags unfurled and drums beating. He was beaming and later would tell me our entrance was the best moment of political street theater he’d seen in decades. The Diag ceremony happened at high noon, so we always had to find an alternative site for our 4:20 ceremonies.

Here’s some little known history of 420 ceremonies: They started with the Waldos in 1971, and passed to the next generation in Marin County, where April 20th ceremonies on Mt. Tam at 4:20 PM occurred for three years before park rangers shut down that ceremony. But from 1992 until at least 1998, I was the only person I know of who was advocating and organizing 420 ceremonies. And I was promoting these ceremonies everywhere I went and through every event I created, including: The Cannabis  Cup, Whee, and the Freedom Fighter rallies.

After I got so involved with these events and activities, I voluntarily departed my post as Editor-in-Chief and moved back to my Upper West Side apartment to concentrate on events and video. That’s when a dude named Mike Edison was moved in to run High Times. Only Edison was given a lot more authority than I’d ever had and swiftly became both publisher and editor.

But I could never have a conversation with Edison as he would never stop talking. Didn’t matter what subject might come up, Edison was expert in all things. He started like a kid in a candy store with all that power, but it swiftly eroded because he alienated the entire staff. That’s when I was brought back as his “adviser.” But my advice was something he could never tolerate. I couldn’t get him to agree with a single story idea of mine and when I brought in the real story of who’d created 420, Edison refused to admit I had uncovered the truth.

When he later wrote a revenge book to assassinate my character, he’d claim that I “suppressed all other stories on the origins of 420, while taking it to cult-like extremes.” Now that quote has been used to promote the sales of his book, which got terrible reviews and sold few copies. Yes, when the truth arrives, it tends to “suppress” the disinfo tales. That’s what the truth is supposed to do. And if Edison had understood anything about making a successful company, he would have understood it happens through cooperation and mutual respect and building harmony, not by one dude bossing everyone around with his brilliant ideas.

If Jack Herer was alive, he’d tell the true story about the origins of the hemp movement and how we spread 420 ceremonies because he’s the only one who was with me on that mission from the start. What I find so strange is how few people in the movement ever acknowledge my participation in any of these events. And how my side of the story never seems to make it into the mass media, which is constantly being filled with bogus stories about 420 every year. And how Edison’s bullshit quote ends up on wikipedia to belittle my role in this history.

My Favorite Alex Grey T-shirt….and you can have it


AlexGreyshirtToday, many call it “The Rainbow Cup.” It was the most elaborate stage show ever produced in Cup history, with complex sets, hemp costumes, dancing goddesses, and the best campfire performers from the Rainbow Gathering, all under the direction of Garrick Beck. The ceremonial judging crew included Stephen & Ina May Gaskin and Alex & Allyson Grey. Morley Safer of 60 Minutes covered the event, but he didn’t even interview me ( that would have given too much credence to my press conference, where I announced Soma from the Rig Vega was cannabis, which meant cannabis was used in religion 2,000 years ago). After the event was over, I decided to edit a book with Stephen Gaskin, who’s 420 council at the Pax Party House had inspired the formation that year of the Temple Dragon Crew, a secret society devoted to protecting the integrity of the ceremonies. For the cover of that book, we brought back Alex Grey’s “Cannabia” artwork that had been created for the Rainbow Cup and Alex provided new text: “Cannabis Spirituality.” If you are interested, just come to the 710 Cup in Denver on July 10th, or the Munchie Cup in Aspen on August 18-20th and look for the Abakus booth.


Introducing SMT: Stoner Mean Time

MtTamPeople sometimes ask me why I put so much emphasis on Mt. Tamalpais as the spiritual home of 420.

When our ancient tribal ancestors went to the top of the magic mountain, it was a vision quest to discover themselves. Going up is always a good thing, it’s when you feel yourself sinking down you have to be careful.

The Waldos started 420 in 1971, and organized many ceremonies on April 20th for years, and I’m sure they still do. But after over a decade, spontaneous gatherings erupted at the summit of Mt. Tam on April 20th at 4:20 pm that had nothing to do with the Waldos. When I heard about these gatherings, I made 420 the central ceremony of all my events like the Cannabis Cup and Whee!, as well as part of my daily life. So you have to understand Mt. Tam plays a key symbolic role in the story of 420.

Which is why I am cluing you in to a fun ceremony of tuning into 4:20 at Mt. Tam just as another way to celebrate our annual holiday. This revelation actually occurred to me because I needed to figure out a way to get all the MCC operators to turn on and tune up to the same frequency at the same time, so we can see if that well-focused telepathic energy, strategically placed around the globe, can jump start world peace. Ever since I created the prototype MCC almost three weeks ago, I’ve been manifesting a tremendous amount of creative energy, maybe you can tell?

There are a lot of frequencies (flavors) available and they tune into different chakras. Like if you want to blast your AC/DC, or Metallica, that’s cool, but understand that’s the red candle you are dealing with. I like to think of that not as your base or root, but as your ID deep inside your brain. When manifesting those energies, it’s easy to fly off the road, so enjoy the ride, but be advised there are different frequencies higher up the spiritual ladder that are just as fun and a lot more enlightening.

So let’s all have a great 420 this year and I hope everyone tunes into SMT and celebrates 420 on Mt. Tam together as a global 420 ceremony we can all join in on.

Born-Again Hippies

It takes more than a bag of weed to forge a hippie heart. In fact, most of the time, it takes a major ceremony. I spent a long time searching for answers throughout much of the sixties, but I didn’t get truly “zapped” until I attended the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in the summer of 1969.

I’d planned to meet up with Larry Green and Carole, but they were coming from New York City, while I was traveling south from Cape Cod. Once the highway was closed, I feared they’d been turned away.

As it turned out, however, meeting people at Woodstock was no problem. I ran into James “Chef Ra” Wilson almost immediately. I could tell Jim was already zapped. His life would never be the same. Davy Goldwasser, one of the brightest kids in town, stumbled into our camp in the middle of the sea of humanity. When the rain came, we hid under a tarp Davy had brought along. A photo of us appeared in a German magazine (left). Note the fence I constructed to keep people off my comfy bed. I remember Larry was really pissed at me for changing into my dry clothes right after the rain blew over. I think it was about the only negative second we experienced at the event, and Larry was afraid the straw we were sleeping on was getting muddied, although I suspect the real reason was Carole’s frequent whispering in my ear.

The zapping I got at Woodstock sure faded over the years, as I went back to college in California and then back to Illinois as I had to work my way through a couple of degrees. I’d lost most of that non-violent telepathic energy by the time I hit High Times in the late 1980s. When I’d first moved to New York at the beginning of the 1980s, my primary interest had been experimental theater, and Julian Beck’s Living Theater was one of my biggest influences. Imagine my surprise when I saw Julian standing on the corner outside my apartment on 98th Street shortly after moving in.

Many years later, however, I’d meet Julian’s son, Garrick Beck, one of elders of the Rainbow Family of Living Light. Soon after meeting Garrick, I attended my first National Rainbow Gathering, which is where I got re-zapped.

That’s when I also decided to inject some ceremonial elements into the Cannabis Cup and WHEE! festivals I’d created. I was hoping to pass this non-violent culture on down and let the future generations get zapped by our peace-love vibrations. We really need a return of this culture in order to heal some of the trauma of the last few years, especially all the shootings. By showing respect for non-violence, you can help turn the children away from the allure of violence. But when you disrespect the cultures of non-violence, you actually urge children toward prejudice and bigotry.

Sad to say, many people walked through these ceremonies over the years and never got zapped by anything. Nothing even close. If anything, they developed a further hatred for hippies, vegetarians and the Rainbow Family. However, there were plenty of born-again hippies created as well. I know because many of them came up to me and told me so, while thanking me effusively for putting them back on the path of non-violence.

Best Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Many people who lived through the recent shooting in Colorado  will spend much of their lives from here on dealing with PTSD, as do many of our soldiers returning from overseas combat. You simply can’t be exposed to deadly fire from automatic weapons without suffering some degree of this debilitating and little-understood mental disorder.

I recently read a scientific study that said it was better to stay awake as long as possible after experiencing a traumatic event. Once you fall asleep, the trauma can amplify inside you as you sleep. At least, that was the upshot of the study, which indicated rats exposed to trauma were better able to process that trauma if they were prevented from sleeping for many hours, while the rats who were allowed to sleep immediately after the trauma had much more difficulty readjusting.

My life changed after I went to my first National Rainbow Family Gathering. I had no idea what the mental health impact of landing in a world that provided free food and free medical care for everyone was like.  And I didn’t realize the profound impact peace meditations and love energy could have on a damaged psyche. I saw a lot of healing going on at the first gathering, much of it involving Vietnam Veterans.

Recovering from trauma is easier when its done in a group and that’s what meditations like the Rainbow Family Gathering are really all about. When thousands of people gather together and pray for peace in silence, there’s a telepathic energy that can affect everyone in the circle. It’s already been proven that violent crime rates fall immediately after peaceful meditations. Not just for the people in the meditation, but for the surrounding community for miles around. That’s the power of telepathic energy. That study was done decades ago, yet aside from the Rainbow Gathering, you won’t find many people organizing peace meditations to deal with PTSD.

I’d encourage the residents of Aurora to gather next Sunday and hold a community prayer service in an open park or field for the purpose of praying for an end to senseless violence. Ideally, the prayer should include several hours of silent meditation. In order to direct these prayers, it’s important to have a focal point for the energy. I prefer a peace pole, but any sort of altar will do. In this case, the pole or altar should have the names and photos of the victims on it.

If the community leaders don’t want to organize a peace circle like this, I’d recommend counterculture high school kids organize the event on their own. If it does happen, one thing you an count on is that a lot of people will be shedding tears during the meditation. That’s a good thing because tears can be a purification to help wash away PTSD.

One of the most important things hippies learned nearly fifty years ago was that love energy could be amplified and shared. That’s why we were called the “love generation.” Outsiders mistook this for sexual energy because we were the first generation to reject the concept of abstaining from sex before marriage. But sex and love are different energies, even though they often converge. Love energy is the most healing power on earth.

The other treatment I recommend, obviously, is cannabis. I don’t think there’s a medication on earth as effective in reducing trauma than cannabis. I remember when I was arrested in Amsterdam for having 2 1/2 kilos of pot and hash in my hotel room. Tourists are only allowed to posses five grams of cannabis at a time, so having that much in my room turned out to be a big problem. The narco squad busted into my room in the middle of the night and arrested me and my video crew while we were trying to edit footage. I spent a restless night in a cold jail cell. The next day, however, the chief of police let me go. He’d just read my book “Adventures in the Counterculture,” which began with my examination of the JFK assassination. I think the chief was impressed by my understanding of deep political events because he treated me as an intellectual equal. He told me were were in the richest neighborhood of Amsterdam, where much of the old money currently resided. “Your event should go on,” he added, which is why he let me walk free. All I had to do was take responsibility for the weed and hash. I ended up paying a multi-thousand euro fine and never had a problem in Amsterdam since. The chief told me the main reason he could go so lightly on me was because no hard drugs had been found in my hotel room. Had any white powders turned up, I would have gone to jail for many months. When I got back to my hotel room, I wanted to check out of that hotel immediately. I could still feel the trauma from the police breaking into my room and throwing me on the floor, handcuffing me, and dragging me out of the hotel. It was not a pleasant feeling, and I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep comfortably in that room ever again. And I had another week to go in Amsterdam. But then I noticed a slab of Soma’s jellyhash sitting on my desk. I guess the cops thought is was a chocolate candy bar or something because they took all the hash and weed, but left that hunk of dark, gooey, waterhash. I was expecting to get out of that hotel as quickly as possible, but after a few hits of Soma’s jelly, I realized staying in the room for the rest of the week was no longer a problem. That’s how effective cannabis can be on PTSD.

Thoughts on 420 Eve

The first reference to 420 I ever saw was a flyer handed out at an Oakland Grateful Dead show that was designed to pull people across the Bay to participate in a 4:20 pm ceremony on Mt. Tam on April 20th. A short blurb was published in the news section of High Times in May, 1991, which, strangely, did not mention I had announced to my staff that 420 was proof of cannabis spirituality. From the day I saw that flyer, I began organizing 420 ceremonies in earnest, and the big ones were held by the national hemp legalization group I’d started a year earlier called The Freedom Fighters. There were 420 ceremonies at the Freedom Fighter conventions and at the Freedom Fighter encampments at the Rainbow Gatherings, both the regional in Ocala, Florida, as well as the Nationals.

The first 420 ceremony at the Cannabis Cup was in 1993 simply because after founding the Cup, I did not return to the event for four years, stung by comments that I’d created the event only as a excuse to get high, and not as a serious event. The Cannabis Cup 4:20 pm ceremony began as an open council that everyone attending the Cup was invited to. Council always began with an OM, the ancient prayer from the far east that harmonizes people. I’ve done a lot of research into the origins of the “OM” and come to the conclusion it was created by the Sakka’s (Scythians) and moved around the world. OM has two sounds, the “O” rings the rib cage, and the “M” (also known as a y-buzz) rings the facial bones and skull. I also believe “Amen” is a western adaptation of the eastern “OM.” After the OM, we’d pass Eagle Bill’s Native American wooden staff (in place of a feather), and the person who held the staff was allowed to speak. In this manner we discussed how to move forward with the Cup and our ceremonies. In 1994, Eagle Bill was the master of ceremonies and high priest of 420 council. Later, this function was taken over by whatever counterculture icon we were honoring. For example, when Bob Marley was inducted in our hall of fame, Rita Marley was the high priestess, and Ras Menelik was the high priest.

By 1995, there were numerous 420 pm and am ceremonies taking place at the Cannabis Cup. All the am ceremonies were held in the lobby of the Quentin Hotel, where the staff and performers stayed. I didn’t really organize 4:20 am ceremonies. The Temple Dragon Crew (protectors of the Cannabis Cup) began organizing those. Basically dozens of people would show up and chant and sing for hours until 4:20 am, and then everyone would line-up under a big clock in the lobby of the Quentin Hotel and have their picture taken at exactly 4:20. When I found out the crew was doing this, I joined that ceremony. I would credit Rocker T as a primary instigator of the 420 am’s.

The biggest 420 am celebration was always the night of the awards show, as many would return to the States the next day and usually there was a lot of cannabis left to consume. Entire kolas would be set on fire in the hotel lobby and passed around and sniffed. Later on, the crew took slabs of waterhash and used them as papers, filling the insides with cannabis. Those hash/weed joints were each worth hundreds of dollars and would be consumed in a matter of a few minutes.

The Waldos contacted the Cannabis Cup in 1997. This is the same year 420 starts at Boulder, Colorado, although some try to claim there were 420 ceremonies in Boulder prior to 1997, I’d like to see some proof of those claims before I’ll swallow that story. I published the true origins of 420 in High Times after meeting the Waldos in 1998, around the same time I created the WHEE! festival in Oregon, which was ten times bigger than the Cup. Whee!, like the Cannabis Cup, used 420 as the central ceremony of the event.