LOS ANGELES – Put this in your pipe and smoke it.
High Times, the magazine that for decades has been the go-to bible for backyard pot growers and cocktail party tokers has been sold to a group of investors that includes reggae musician and ganga guru Damian Marley.
The son of the late reggae superstar Bob Marley is one of 20 investors who acquired a 60 percent stake in High Times, its digital media platforms and its increasingly popular Cannabis Cup trade shows.
The purchase price wasn’t revealed but Adam Levin, whose Los Angeles-based investment firm, Oreva Capital, put together the deal, said the company is valued at $70 million.
Levin, whose company specializes in acquiring undervalued media properties, said he, Marley and other partners believe they have landed a gem.
Although other magazines have struggled, High Times’ new owners say it has retained a loyal print subscriber base of more than 200,000 with millions more following it online. Perhaps its most lucrative source of income, however, is its Cannabis Cup trade shows at which prizes are awarded for the best buds.
What began as a single, somewhat clandestine meeting in an Amsterdam hotel room in 1988 has grown to 11 events last year with more planned for 2017. As many as 25,000 people attended one in Southern California in February.
As marijuana use becomes legal in more and more states, Levin sees those audiences growing, as well as opportunities for more branding of concerts, clothing and other sources of revenue.
It’s a dramatic change from the early years of the magazine that was founded in 1974 by former drug smuggler Tom Forcade and once sold at newsstands in the same opaque plastic bags used to shield the covers of porn magazines.
“It was much more of a crazy, burgeoning pot smuggler magazine when it originated,” Levin acknowledged Thursday.
He added, however, that it is now the trusted brand of cannabis lovers everywhere.
“We’re the Wine Aficionado of the cannabis industry,” he said, referring to the popular wine magazine.