Cannabis Castaways

When CBS announced a former British commando had moved to Hollywood and was launching a survival elimination game show called “Survivor,” I instantly knew the concept was going to be a big hit, mostly because it was mining tribal traditions, something I’d been doing for over a decade through my events and organizations.

Of course, I didn’t want some cutthroat competition, just a group of cinematic stoners checking out all the strains of the annual Cannabis Cup. Maybe that sounds easy, but it’s actually quite a daunting task unless you’re an experienced bud-tender or distributor who knows his strains.

We had a talented young comedian, a hip hop music producer (and grower), an aspiring performance artist, a medical user, a noted activist, and a super hottie from England. They were all thrown into a one bedroom houseboat in Amsterdam and told they had to stay onboard until they had tried all the strains, which were released slowly in increments of a half dozen or so at a time.

After 36 hours or so, the young comedian requested to get off the boat and soon announced he was off pot for good. He had entered the contest not really being very experienced with cannabis, but only wanting to win the contest and get some notoriety for his comedy. As a joke, he rolled a dozen strains into a giant joint and began toking on it. Within a few minutes, you could see a pronounced change in his body language.

The Castaways picked the Cannabis Cup winner that year, and I was planning on another season, and keeping some of the Castaways as characters in my tv universe I was building, but when they returned to the States, the hip hop producer’s estranged wife initiated a custody battle to bar access to their daughter based on his participation in the show. When he called me hysterically after the judgment, I asked for a copy of the transcript.

I’d just won a similar custody battle based on my being editor of High Times initiated by a bipolar member of my wife’s family, so I had experience with the terror this dude was going through, and you don’t know real mental terror until someone swoops in and seizes your only child.

But, at the same time, I had to admit the transcript read like a Cheech and Chong script. The producer had denied being involved in the show from the get-go and the lawyer led him down a garden path until he produced a copy of High Times with him on the cover, holding his distinctive cane, a cane he now held firmly in his grasp in the witness stand. The producer went down in flames.

I contacted the comedian because I wondered if he wanted to work on an animated film about our project. A lot of the comedy we’d worked on together during the event had been successful. We’d produced a sitcom every night for four nights running and showed the results to open the shows at the Melkweg. This mini series was treated with waves of applause and belly laughter and was obviously the most entertaining thing we’d produced content-wise from all my improvisational explorations.

But the comedian freaked again, and sent a letter to all the Castaways saying I was planing on mining their personal tragedies for profit and advised them all never to speak with me again. He certainly never did.

But we did get a live web show so popular it kept crashing our website while it was on, and the highlights were immortalized in a DVD you can watch here:

High Times and me

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.

Introducing SMT: Stoner Mean Time

People 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.

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.

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Music, Math & Marijuana

In January 1990, High Times news editor Steve Bloom returned to the office from a trip to the Bay Area and brought with him a flyer for an April 20th event to be held at the top of Mount Tamalpias in Marin County. The flyer indicated that “420” was California police code for “marijuana smoking in progress.” Bloom thought the flyer was funny and a bit ridiculous, but I felt otherwise. Since I’d recently started my research into the spiritual history of cannabis use and was deep into the Rig Veda, I seized on the flyer as evidence of the spiritual powers of cannabis. “I’m gong to re-focus all my ceremonies around 4:20,” I told Bloom. “We can use 420 to spread awareness about the spiritual aspects of cannabis.” From that day on, I began holding 4:20 PM ceremonies in my office at High Times and proselytizing about 4:20. That’s because there’s a connection between math, music, marijuana and spirituality. Numerology has always intrigued me.

Imagine my surprise when Bloom published a one-paragraph mention of the flyer in his news section that month, but failed to mention my promise to use the number to help build the legalization movement, something I thought was pretty important news. I was disappointed I’d failed to penetrate my missionary zeal to my news editor, but remained undeterred and made 4:20 council the central focus of my legalization group, The Freedom Fighters, which at the time may have been the largest pro-pot organization in the world. The next time I returned to the Cup in Amsterdam, I brought 4:20 council with me, and it’s been there ever since. In fact, the 4:20 councils at the Cup were videotaped for 15 years, and highlights can be found on my Youtube site.

Eventually, the Cup crew, specifically the Temple Dragons, began holding 4:20 AM celebrations at the Quentin Hotel lobby. (This was Rocker T’s idea.) The 4:20 AM ceremonies quickly became crowded when word leaked out they were the best parties at the Cup. Hundreds of people took photos of themselves in the Quentin lobby next to a clock as proof they attended a 4:20 AM ceremony. In 1997, I began using 420 as a central element of the Whee! festival in Oregon, and the following year, the ceremony was picked up on by the Seattle Hempfest. If Whee had been allowed to continue, it would be as big as the Seattle Hempfest, but just as I was forced to give up the Freedom Fighters, I was also forced to give up the world’s biggest hempfest.

After 420 caught on, the tour agent, Air Tech, changed their name to “420 Tours.” They set up a website and were soon contacted by Steve Waldo, who indicated he and his friends started the 420. I flew out to San Francisco to meet with Steve and check out his claims. I returned to the office a few days later and announced I’d discovered the origins of 420, and it wasn’t a police code.

Unfortunately, then-publisher of High Times Mike Edison disputed my story and refused to accept the Waldos were, in fact, the true originators. Imagine my surprise when many years later Bloom tried to take credit for “discovering” 420, when he was one of those at the office that could never connect with my efforts along these lines. For Bloom, my attempts at forging an untainted ritual tradition for modern stoners was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, and I’m sure he feels that way today.

Thus began my odyssey to tell the true history of 420. Now many people spread false stories and stake claims on having a better explanation, but no one can document the use of the term “420” as a reference to marijuana prior to 1971, other than Steve Waldo. And no one can document 420 ceremonies outside Marin county in the early 1990s aside from mine. It’s strange to read Cannabis Culture claim they were using the term in the mid-1990s (several years after I began my 420 ceremonies) when, in fact, Marc initially ridiculed my 420 council at the Cup when he attended the first time. I’m sure that’s where he heard about 420 for the first time, although he later wrote my attempts at “hippie spirituality” were out-dated, which broke off our relationship for a while, although I’m happy to say all that’s been patched up.