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  'High Times' Post-9/11
Posted by CN Staff on February 21, 2004 at 17:28:47 PT
By Ellis Henican  
Source: Newsday  

cannabisnews.com Richard Stratton knows what it's like to run a magazine with unconventional demographics. Before he took over as publisher and editor-in-chief of High Times, he ran Prison Life, a beloved but now dead journal for men and women behind bars.

A fascinating subject, for sure but not exactly the upscale population that most advertisers seek. "The readers didn't have much money to spend," Stratton conceded with a smile. "And they couldn't get out to the store."

Well, compared to that captive audience, how hard can the just-say-yes crowd be?

So Stratton, who himself did eight years in prison on a marijuana-smuggling conviction, has now turned his attention to the venerable marijuana magazine. This is one readership that has a proven history of spending on its cravings, legal and otherwise. The mission: Deliver High Times, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the post-9/11, John Ashcroft world.

"The High Times sensibility is libertarian more than left-wing or right-wing," Stratton was saying at week's end. "It's a lifestyle magazine for people who don't think the government should tell them how to live," whether they choose to get high or not.

"It's the whole outlaw attitude," added his editor, Annie Nocenti. "And it's a fundamental part of the American character."

The two of them, Stratton and Nocenti, are sitting together in the magazine's lofty office on Park Avenue South. Stratton is solid and squinting and his face is well-lined. The past few years, he's made a serious name for himself at the gritty end of the TV-and-movie world. (Showtime's "Street Time," the film "Slam.") He tends to mumble.

Nocenti, a screenwriter and celebrated comic-book author who was an editor at Scenario magazine and Prison Life, is the extrovert in the room, tossing off ideas and quick opinions. Along with executive editor John Buffalo Mailer, a budding playwright and the famous novelist's 26-year-old son, they are asking themselves: Can a pot magazine still matter today?

"We have this 30-year-old brand name known around the world," Stratton says. "But we have to be more than a pot magazine."

So comedian Dave Chappelle is on the cover this month, anchoring a package on race. Other pieces touch on white supremacists and the terrorist-detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Yes, there are still ads for rolling papers and grow lights.

Stratton and his crew have decided to split the old High Times franchise into two magazines: The newly launched Grow is a tightly focused trade magazine for the serious marijuana cultivator, packed with helpful hints on seed selection and irrigation techniques.

That has freed High Times to broaden its scope.

"We want to elevate our argument beyond 'Yo, babes, bongs and the right to smoke,' " Nocenti said.

"The question is: What kind of world do you want to live in?" Stratton said. "A world where people go to prison for small amounts of drugs?"

In 1974, he was part of the informal brain trust around the magazine's late founder, fellow pot smuggler Tom Forcade. "The magazine was really created as a marketing tool," Stratton said. "A load of Colombian pot had come into the city. The challenge was, 'How are you going to educate the market about what this stuff is?' Start a magazine!"

Over the years, High Times became a Hagstrom's for the youth culture, a practical road map for stoners and their friends, treading a wavy line just this side of the drug laws. The magazine created and continues to host the Cannabis Cup, an Oscars for pot growers held each fall in Amsterdam.

The magazine was almost silenced several times by various branches of Washington's War on (some) Drugs. Police and prosecutors circled, using terms like "ancillary criminal enterprise." Advertisers were squeezed. But the magazine puffed on.

Since Stratton and his group took over late last year, they've thrust High Times back into the broader countercultural buzz. The magazine is opening a Los Angeles office next week. There's talk of High Times movies and TV projects. The magazine is publishing a protest guide to this summer's Republican National Convention in New York. On Thursday night, the editors hosted a hip-hop summit, tied to pieces on race.

And marijuana becomes almost a metaphor.

Comedian Tommy Chong was sent to jail last year for manufacturing smoking paraphernalia, Richard Stratton recalled. "A lot of people have a real problem with government power being used that way, even people who don't use drugs. We'll keep highlighting that kind of thing."

"You can almost compare the magazine to marijuana itself," said Nocenti, before heading back to work. "People have tried to stamp it out. They've never been able to. It's a weed that grows naturally. It just keeps coming back."

Source: Newsday (NY)
Author: Ellis Henican
Published: February 21, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Newsday Inc.
Contact: letters@newsday.com
Website: http://www.newsday.com/

Related Articles & Web Site:

High Times Magazine
http://www.hightimes.com/

Who's Smoking Now?
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread17800.shtml

Writer Who's Seen Jail From Both Sides of the Bars
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread16995.shtml


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Comment #6 posted by FoM on February 21, 2004 at 23:53:41 PT
BGreen
I normally am not up at this time but I ate a Chocolate Easter Egg! I shouldn't eat chocolate late at night but it was so good! LOL! I found two articles and wanted to post them since they are important. I'm about done for the night. Thank You!

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #5 posted by BGreen on February 21, 2004 at 23:47:41 PT
I didn't think you'd still be up, FoM
That's why I jumped in and answered for you.

Good night!

The Reverend Bud Green

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #4 posted by FoM on February 21, 2004 at 23:40:01 PT
BGreen Is Right
It's against copyright law for me to change anything in an article. If I catch a spelling error I try to fix it but that is about the extent of what I can do.

Here's the link to the article.

http://www.newsday.com/news/columnists/nyc-henn0222,0,3701094.column?coll=ny-news-columnists

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #3 posted by BGreen on February 21, 2004 at 23:33:42 PT
FoM doesn't insert editorial comments
I know that FoM is even reluctant to correct an obvious spelling error, so there's no way that she included the (some.)

The Reverend Bud Green

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #2 posted by Universer on February 21, 2004 at 23:27:28 PT
Source Code
I wonder: Was the phrase "Washington's War on (some) Drugs" original to the Newsday article? Or was that a wee bit of editing for this audience?

In general, whenever I read a column posted here, the first thing at which I look is the source. If it comes from the LA Times or the Washington Post or the Toronto Globe & Mail, and if it is of a positive (or at least non-negative) bent, then that to me is representative of progress being made in the realm of public perception of "devil weed."

Progress is a good thing. Good things come to those who wait (and write intelligent coherent letters to prohibitionist politicians and journalists).

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on February 21, 2004 at 20:16:37 PT
This sentence almost made me faint
"Stratton and his crew have decided to split the old High Times franchise into two magazines: The newly launched Grow is a tightly focused trade magazine for the serious marijuana cultivator, packed with helpful hints on seed selection and irrigation techniques. "

That this sentence should appear in Newsday -- wow!

Tightly focused, serious, trade publication -- that's a new image for the old pothead I'll say.



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