The Stoner Highway

I’m a rolling stone, all alone and lost.  For a life of fun, I’ve paid the cost.

When I pass by, all the people say:  Just another dude, on the stoner highway.

Thin rice paper, or a pipe real small.  Nug of kind bud, makes it all worthwhile.

From the day we met, my life it changed.  Starting rolling down the stoner highway.

I was just a boy, only fifteen.  Neither good nor bad, something in-between.

But I got lost, and went astray.  Couldn’t stop goin’ down that stoner highway.

Now boy’s don’t take no breakfast dab.  Unless of course, life’s become too drab.

Take my advice or you’ll rue the day.  You lost control on the stoner highway.

The story of the Assassinettes

The Soul Assassins held a few rehearsals when I decided to bring a girl group into the act. Originally, this was designed as a way to build a female fan club, all of whom would become Assassinettes, but the promotion stunt eventually morphed into the stars of our show.

Claudia Assassinette

The original Assassinette was my girl friend at the time, Claudia, who I’d discovered while she was working as the phone receptionist for Tommy Boy Records. Claudia was a disco queen from Queens, half Italian, half Jewish. As far as style goes, few could touch her.

I think I asked her out on the spot or maybe it was my second visit to the office, but I was gaga over her immediately and couldn’t stop thinking about her.

Claudia had attracted others, most notably Jellybean, who had an open relationship with Madonna at the time. He offered Claudia a job as his assistant but when Madonna found out she hit the ceiling and had it squashed immediately, which hurt Claudia’s feelings since she was currently unemployed, something I suspected might have been somehow related with her unexpected involvement with me. Obviously, Tommy Boy never understood her value, but she would end up doing A&R for Profile Records before launching her own label called Maxi.

Flick brought in Jeannie, Romeo’s girl friend, and Claudia brought in her best friend, Elena, and the original trio appeared first in a club downtown that probably doesn’t exist anymore. Afterwards the girls were mobbed by horny guys while I immediately went down to the dressing room alone. Along the way, “Little Girl” by the Syndicate of Sound came over the sound system, a song we had actually played. Some stranger on the steps blurted out, “sounds exactly the same!”

I changed into a t-shirt as I was dripping sweat, when his imperial highness James Marshall, the dean of East Village rock critics, appeared in the doorway. I had no idea Marshall had even come to the show but was prepared to accept whatever withering comment he wanted to make.

Much to my surprise, he gave us an unqualified rave review, and I thanked him sincerely.

Shortly after this gig, there was trouble in paradise as Elena and Jeannie confronted Claudia about being off key, and that confrontation crushed Claudia and put her into a tearful state.

My Solomon-like decision was to start over. If Claudia couldn’t be chief Assassinette, I needed a new trio, as having the other two without her would be an endless psychodrama afflicting my harmony with the crew.

After calling the band together, and announcing my decision, I also established the first band rule: no sleeping with any Assassinettes.

Flick and Allegra

A promoter had recently created “The Mind’s Eye” at Tramps to revive the garage psychedelic era, the music made by real teens before record companies perverted everything. I sent Andre Grossmann down to photograph the new scene and he came back with really cool photos, one of which jumped out at me. After working up a nice puff piece to promote the club, I invited  Ivy, the genius promoter, to come to the office to check out the layout.

“Who’s that?” I asked Ivy pointing at a picture of an exotic multi-ethnic girl with purple streaks in her hair.

“Allegra of the Black Orchids,” she replied. I got Allegra’s phone number and invited her to the office to see her picture in the layout. I told Allegra I wanted to recruit her for my new girl group. I didn’t know it at the time, but that exotic look was half Vietnamese and half Sephardic Jew.

Allegra showed up with Abby, and right away explained she fronted her own band and couldn’t join my girl group, but felt sure Abby was the one I needed.

Abby Assassinette

I don’t think Abby had ever been in the sunshine. Her skin was porcelain perfection. Built like Marilyn Monroe with a face like Betty Page. Abby must have based those bangs off Betty as she soon produced a Page homage video starring herself.

Abby had to be one of the most popular and highest-paid topless dancers in the Tristate Area but never did gigs in Manhattan and none of us were ever allowed to watch that show but safe to say some of the moves made it into our show. Abby worked for a posh private library and no doubt pulled down a significant salary there as well.

Abby, Kimona, Lucy

Flick found Kimona 117, who had more of a hip hop background, while Abby possessed a PhD in garage rock history. And since they were both alpha females, one wondered how this could harmonize. But once Kimona opened her mouth and belted out a few notes, everyone in the rehearsal room, including Abby, took a step back. Kimona had a voice like Joplin. It was obvious who was going to be the female star of the show.

Abby brought in her best friend Lucy. They were both from Boston and both were professional dancers. It was really confusing trying to figure out who of the three was the sexiest, even when you lined them all up together, but I guess most guys picked Lucy, who eventually became the most popular runway model for the East Village look. Those three girls bonded into a real sisterhood.

And that rule about not sleeping with Assassinettes? Well, I forgot to tell the girls about it and they had their own agendas, so while some hookups happened, others misfired, and it did turn into a bit of a psychic mind-field sometimes after all.

 

The Roadtrek Life: Living Well is the Best Revenge

I dreamed about my own Roadtrek for over a decade before I finally was able to secure a vintage Dodge Versatile 190 for $20,000. The key was finding one  with solar panels. I had to upgrade the inverter and battery system after boondocking for a week with Busy Bee at the Rainbow Gathering, when we blew most of the circuits between charging the ebikes and blasting our mobile PA.

Since that upgrade I’ve introduced a host of electrical appliances including a hot plate, air fryer, hotpot, dorm fridge, mini heater/cooler fridge, 24 inch Amazon Prime TV, Alexa, mini vacuum, mini washing machine, hepa air purifier, electric shower, mini driver with numerous attachments, Verizon 5G Jetpack, mini heater.

It has emergency food stash, mostly rice, dried beans and various seeds for sprouting, but a quick trip to Whole Foods can easily outfit the vehicle with enough fresh food to last a week or more. Most of the storage space is kept empty for provisions.

I could carry around hundreds of pounds of liquids, but I actually never fill up the water tank unless I’m boondocking, and then only after I arrive close to the destination. I keep the black and grey water tanks empty, and the black water tank was never pooped in.

Should I come upon water in any form, however, I can top off two solar showers, mini tub, and various other containers, the most pure of which is the Brita pitcher in the dorm fridge.

My favorite beverage while driving is an ice-cold Mexican coke. My favorite snack are fresh french fries. Slice an Idaho potato into your favorite size and soak for a few minutes or more in water. Damp dry and spray with a mist of olive oil. Form into a tower and cook on high for 20 minutes in air fryer. Pull the tray after 15 minutes and jumble the fries.

The full-sized bed inside is an organic futon, same model as the one I sleep on every night.

Providing all the necessary comforts (as well as toolkits and medical equipment), these Roadtrek vans are the ultimate tool for social distancing.

PEBL versus Elf

Give credit to the Elf for pioneering the concept of a solar-powered trike that can replace gas-guzzling cars for commuting and shopping locally.

A few years later, the PEBL was created as the Elf competitor. Last spring, however, Elf shut down their production and is currently seeking a financial rescue that may or may not come. Since over 800 Elfs were sold over the past six years, it’s not difficult to find a used one on the Internet, often at a fraction of the $10k cost of buying a new one. The Elf started at half that price, but the cost kept rising as improvements were made and features added.

Although the Elf is bigger and wider, remarkably, it weighs much less than the PEBL, which means it’s also easier to pedal. In fact, if the battery gives out, and you don’t have an outlet to plug into, or time to let the solar panel refill a completely dead battery (something that takes around 7 hours), it’s not that difficult to operate the Elf on pedal power alone, something that would be far more difficult with a PEBL.

But on just about every other feature, the PEBL blows away the Elf, mostly due to its suspension system. The Elf works fine on flat level roads with no potholes, but the ride can be bone-jarring over bumps. The antler arms can also be difficult to wrestle over bumps. Not so with the PEBL, which is easily steered with one hand. The Elf has a more recumbent position, while riders are more upright in the PEBL. I prefer upright, but some others may prefer a more recumbent posture.

You won’t often find a used PEBL for sale, which is likely a testament to customer satisfaction. I recently saw a fully-loaded model going for $7,000. At the present, there are two used Elves on the market, one for $3,000 and the other for $4,000.  Since many two-wheel ebikes cost over $5k, the used Elf is typically a great bargain. I expect these bikes to eventually start increasing in value as they become more famous.

Because it is charged while in the bike, the PEBL battery is bigger and easier to charge. It also holds more juice. The Elf battery can be removed, or left in place to charge, but the connection and position of the battery makes the operation far more difficult than it should be.

The Elf has an open floor and unfinished interior, while the PEBL is fully enclosed and carpeted. For use at the beach, the Elf makes more sense and is easier to sweep clean of sand. The PEBL is more narrow and has a shorter turn radius, but that may also make it more susceptible to rollover.

The PEBL is a four-season bike easily ridden through rain and snow, unlike the Elf which is designed for warmer weather. Remarkably, the price between the two was not very far apart, which accounts for the PEBL being a great value, even with the recent price rise.

As for modifications, I replaced the Elf mirrors with larger ones that folded in completely. On the PEBL, I put a Batman logo over the BB logo on the front. I’d urge BetterBike to explore a better logo.

The Elf logo was stylized letters for Organic Transit, but many see it just as a “T” for “Tesla.” The logo for a futuristic vehicle like this should be simple and iconic, like the Tesla in my opinion. The PEBL also needed a strip of clear tape on the rear hatch hinge because it leaked rain water into the cabin. This did not solve the problem, but PEBL was nice enough to come pick up the trike and fix the leak free of charge. I also installed a better, wider handlebar with cork handles, front derailleur, and NuVinci transmission, all of which were big improvements and now available as add-ons.

Update on May 11, 2020: I flipped my PEBL after hitting a bump while turning. I was leaning the wrong way at the time. It’s super important to lean your weight into the turns. This forced me to ride the Elf again after a long layoff. I put a backseat pad in the Elf and it made a world of difference. Makes up for the lack of rear suspension. I highly recommend this pad and ended up putting one in the PEBL as well.

After riding both trikes for hundreds of miles, I  found I prefer the Elf in summer, but need the PEBL for the cold months. I added two small mini coolers to the Elf to keep the dogs out of the wheel well, and also use small boogie boards as doors to keep them from jumping out during stops. I also put battery-powered electric fans in both vehicles. I’m currently experimenting with various tinted film to put over the windows on both vehicles in the summer. The Batbike will likely be mirrored all around, while the front windshield on the Elf will be clear but still heat-blocking.

If you are considering using this vehicle for commuting you’d probably be happier with a PEBL, but if you are using it primarily as an exercise machine, you might be better off with a used Elf, especially at one third the price.

Update July 2020, the new PEBL 100 looks amazing, and they took my advice on the front logo. This is now the model to have as it has numerous upgrades over previous models.

Update September 2020: Covid really slowed down PEBL deliveries, and some who ordered Spring of 2019 are still waiting. Meanwhile, it’s been reported that the delays are a result of difficulty getting essential parts out of Europe. The owners are presently planning to move the factory to Europe, which will likely result in a big increase in shipping charges and more delays. However, they may have a few refurbished models ready to ship now. Meanwhile, if you want either an Elf or a PEBL anytime soon, better stick with a used model. Hopefully both Elf and PEBL will be back up and running soon.

The Steven Hager Archives

Going up for sale soon and just the tip of the iceberg really on what I am holding: The Steven Hager Archives.

Need to find a landing spot while I can still function, and where it will be put to good use.

Untitled by Steven Hager, watercolor on paper, 1968.

1963 to 1969
Letters, drawings, short stories, artwork and memorabilia, including the only complete copy of The Tin Whistles, created in 1968. The material covers the emergence of garage rock and hippies in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Few realize the first real psychedelic anthem was The Finchley Boys “Only Me,” never released and written early in 1966, a song that deployed eastern-tinged scales and feedback to great mystical effect. The band was whisked out to San Francisco and momentarily adopted by the trailblazing Cockettes as “the next big thing.” Written by 15-year-old Mark Warwick, “Only Me” was never the same after Warwick left the band. Champaign became counterculture mecca in part because John Cage was living and working there, creating his most impressive ceremonies. Bob Nutt and Irv Azof (of Live Nation fame) became promoters for the local teen rock bands, which included the Knight Riders, for whom I played bass. Also includes documents involving the entrapment case a State Narcotics Taskforce put on me, a case never successfully prosecuted, just held over me for two years waiting in vain for me to cave and go State’s Evidence against my counterculture cohorts. All underground newspaper publishers were subjected to similar ops, unless they were created by the FBI’s Cointelpro in the first place.

1970-1971
Exile to Sweden, thanks to a low draft number, where I lived out my down-and-out in Stockholm fantasies, bought an antique used typewriter and began churning out philosophical musings, some of which involved CIA penetrations on the deserter movement, a wing of which was connected to LSD trafficking. The most notorious dealer had been jailed just prior to my arrival. Penniless, and on a one-way ticket, I bluffed my way through customs wearing a skimmer, carrying a silver-tipped cane, and wearing an improvised outfit out of a bygone era. “I’m here to inspect Stockholm University to see if I want to attend,” was all I told them. I ended up as an extra in the film on Joe Hill and nearly scored a speaking role as the costume crew took a liking to me.

1972-1977
College journalism, first at San Francisco City College, then playwriting at the University of Illinois. My one-act play was invited to the prestigious National College Theatre Festival and garnered a standing ovation. My plays were heavily influenced by Anton Chekhov and Samuel Beckett. Then it was back to journalism as I picked up a Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois. My thesis project was an examination of the recently created anti-abortion movement, which included a visit with the founder of the movement in St. Louis, Phyllis Schafly.

1978-1984
Professional journalism begins, first at Showbusiness Newspaper, the seedy underbelly of the theater business, led by the notorious Leo Shull. A procession of magazine jobs followed before arriving at the Daily News, where I began writing about hip hop in 1980, collecting massive interview recordings from the major creators and then publishing the first history on the subject while landing a film deal with Orion, which became the groundbreaking “Beat Street.” From there I began interviewing leading figures emerging in the art world, including Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf and published the influential “Art After Midnight” so hated by someone at St. Martins Press they shredded thousands of copies only to see the value rise astronomically in a few years. It remains the best document of the East Village art scene.

1985-2005
Started working with High Times and rose to Editor-in-Chief in a few years, while launching a parade of movements, starting with the hemp movement, the medical marijuana movement, the home cultivation with Dutch seeds movement, the Sea-of-Green cultivation technique that transformed indoor cultivation, and led the emergence of Amsterdam as the world cannabis capital. I also founded a legendary garage-revival band, the Soul Assassins, who began performing at major rallies. Began doing college debates with the former head of NYC DEA, and ended up visiting 400 colleges, and videotaped nearly every debate. Switched from taping interviews to recording everything on video, especially the ceremonies. After creating numerous events, like the Cannabis Cup, WHEE!, the Stonys, the Doobies, the World Marijuana Film Festival, I assembled video crews to live mix four-camera shoots in anticipation of streaming events on the internet. Wrote a screenplay based on my garage rock days titled “The Runaways,” and planned a $100k production but failed to raise the funds although a successful reading was staged at the Living Theater to much applause. I launched a parody of “Survivor” titled “Cannabis Castaways” that became so popular it crashed the website repeatedly. The focus of many events was injecting a dose of clean spirituality into the cannabis freedom movement and deploying 420 as the spearhead on that effort.

Bell, book and candle have been the foundation for ritual for millennia, so I created 7-candle sculptures as a focal point for ceremonial altars. Seven colors, seven scents and seven symbols drawn from a variety of cultures to signify unification of all religion under one rule: “Don’t hurt anybody.” This followed my belief cannabis was the original sacrament that launched peace culture, which created Buddhism and Christianity. Aum and Amen are the same thing, just different ends of the Silk Road.

The video crews were needed to document my belief that holding peace ceremonies could foster a template for passing responsible cannabis culture down to the next generation and prove the case of religious use. I planned to send this case to the Supreme Court using the video as evidence, along with my investigations into the history of religion, and how cannabis’ essential part in creating most religions had strangely been written out of history. In 1990, I wrote the first national magazine article explaining how the CIA killed JFK, and then assembled the greatest investigative journalism team High Times money could buy, a list that included Paul Krassner, Dick Russell, Peter Gorman, Mike Ruppert, Dan Hopsicker, and Robert Anton Wilson. Strangely, both campaigns created immense pushback from the bosses at High Times, although it took them years to figure out a way to declaw and erase me.

2006-2018
Created “The Tin Whistle” blog now with millions of views, and self-published a series of books on culture, politics and cannabis, including “Killing Kennedy,” “Killing Lincoln,” “Hip Hop Archives,” “1966,” “Cannabis, Magic & Religion.” Since zero of my original script of “Beat Street” was used (too much sex and drugs), I rewrote it as “Looking For the Perfect Beat,” and hope to see it produced some day.

 

Released a book of my songs with lyrics and chords. Made numerous short videos and built a Youtube site with millions of views.

I own the rights to all my journalism, books and video, including all work I did with High Times, and have the largest archive of High Times related material, including maps to where all the bodies were buried, and the keys to understanding why my investigative journalism, as well as my campaign for spiritual rights may have upset the powers-that-be.

Not long after my departure, High Times began losing millions of dollars annually.

Meanwhile, I became a specialist in navigating the fake conspiracy network which I call the Tin Foil Hat Patrol, something deployed to discredit legitimate deep state research.

 

New York City’s best grower/dealer?

Strange how High Times kept bringing me back. The final go-round was the most excruciating of all, but I always had a sense the powers-that-be were playing defense against me when they should have been on my team.

While I’d been away this time for two years, video operations entirely ceased, and this happened during the same time frame that Youtube took off and minted a generation of video stars outside the establishment pipelines. The magazine had bizarrely gone no-pot for a disastrous year followed by a nothing-but-pot policy.

I knew nobody was really on my team, but I dove into rebuilding my video operations, but this time on a professional scale. I turned my office into a video studio and shot and edited video every day. Making this foray into film and television was my biggest priority, although I also brought back real investigative journalism, something the magazine was in dire need of, and penned two of my greatest features, one on the CIA’s LSD attack on a French town after WWII, and the other was on an unknown Canadian named Rick Simpson. Both articles attracted attention, something High Times hadn’t seen much of since I’d departed.

But my pride and joy was my High Times Reality TV pilot that I was working up for Comedy Central. I’d already had a couple meetings with the head of the network and they were watching the show’s progress with great interest. I was working on creating the cannabis alternative to Sasha Baron Cohen. Unfortunately, much of the staff were somewhat devastated upon my return as no doubt they’d been expecting the promotion themselves, and some had zero intention of working with me on anything. It certainly helped this attitude along that the owners were ringleaders of the vibes against me.

The first half of the show got screened at the free Woodstock Film Festival. The second half was shot but the footage was hijacked and used to make a generic “welcome to the Cup promo” film that ignored the Borat-style film I’d shot, and replaced it with an endless parade of bud shots.

Hopefully, some day, I will finish the project. But in the meantime, you can check out part one here:

 

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:

Forever Fun

It’s unfortunate how little video footage got captured during the first Whee! festival outside Eugene, Oregon. The entire adventure had begun as my plot to establish a Weed Woodstock. (Although, in truth, the original was funded almost entirely by weed money, and the event helped cement Woodstock as a weed distribution center.)

I remember taking the trustees to lunch at some five-star restaurant and saying, “You have to be committed to a new event for five years, because that’s how long it may take to break even.” But I assured them after five years, my Whee! fest would be as big if not bigger than Woodstock. And I believed this because the event was promoted as a prayer for world peace, a serious non-denominational ceremony recognizing cannabis as the sacrament of peace culture.

Of course, Whee! exploded immediately, drawing 20,000 to the event, most of whom got in for free and were fed free by a non-stop crew kitchen, and anyone could volunteer to be crew.

After the OM circle, someone handed a bottle of whiskey to Felipe and said he was done with this. Felipe and I did a bunch of powerful ceremonies together, and that was certainly one of the best.

But the day after the event ended, we invited the Pranksters to our motel room to celebrate and eat pizza. Only Ken Babbs showed up, and this is what transpired. The next day, we went to see Kesey, and he introduced me to non-linear video editing, just going prosumer. I had been a devoted follower of improvisational ritual theater as practiced by the Pranksters, and took this direction very seriously, devoting the rest of my life to capturing video of the ceremonies I was staging. Sure glad I kept these memories, and if you want to know what Hager ceremonies look and feel like, this will clue you in.

As soon as I got back to New York, the trustees informed me that Whee! had been a financial failure. Although I knew that was a lie. Through immense efforts I manage to resurrect one more Whee! at the same site the next year before my precious Whee! ceremony was cast to the winds, and thus ended my longstanding campaign for the recognition of spiritual rights for cannabis users.

 

Chef Ra Escapes Babylon

Tom Forcade had multiple film projects in the works when he committed suicide. He’d recently bought controlling interest of a smuggling project, and went to show a rough cut to Robert Evans in Hollywood. Forcade had just paid an editor to whip the chaotic footage into a story. He put a lot of effort into trying to make sense of that footage, some of which involved footage of a real smuggling operation, but Evans sadly told him the edit still wasn’t working.

Apparently, Forcade’s moves into Hollywood contributed to two things: cocaine and guns. According to Gabrielle Schang, Forcade didn’t carry a pistol until after being introduced around Hollywood. He’d been a dealer and distributor and magazine publisher, but was also branching into smuggling and film at the same time. His most precious documentary project involved filming the Sex Pistols historic tour of America. Forcade bought a plane and sent Jack Combs on a mission. He never recovered from Jack’s fatal crash at the end of that ill-fated mission. And that also ended any High Times forays into the film world until I arrived.

Before coming to High Times, I’d launched a moderately successful film project called Beat Street, and never lost sight of expanding my efforts into the world of film and video. When prosumer equipment finally reached the realms of the masses, I began documenting everything, quickly evolving into the most video-centric magazine editor on the national stage. I shot thousands of hours of footage, and often assembled 7-person crews to do four-camera edits with live switching of my major events. All this was working towards the creation of a counterculture television network.

The first project I pitched to the trustees was a Chef Ra travel guide to Jamaica. I was creating an entire galaxy of High Times stars and Ra was intended to be one of the brightest.

Imagine my surprise when the trustees tell me they are putting up thousands of dollars to make the Chef Ra film. That was the good news. The bad news was the project was being given to the aspiring filmmaker son of the head trustee. I didn’t get to play any role in the film until the end. They spent a week in Jamaica and shot a lot of random footage and needed Ra to help work it into a story.

That’s not the best way to make a great documentary and it showed in the final product. But it remains the best portrait of Jim Wilson we have, and since Jim co-wrote the script used to stitch the scenes together, it carries his creativity and compassion.

The first documentary on the emerging hemp movement

Modern life is evolving so fast it’s hard to imagine the vibes going down 30 years ago. Which is why it’s so entertaining to check out a documentary I produced early in the 1990s titled Let Freedom Ring: the Origins of the Hemp Movement. It came out just after my discovery of 420, but three years after I’d created the Freedom Fighters with the help of Rodger Belknap of West Virginia, who quickly became our organization’s chief funder and spiritual advisor.

The Freedom Fighters went from a handful of High Times staffers to the biggest cannabis legalization group in the world in two years, while the Ann Arbor Hash Bash went from a dozen hardcore devotees to many thousands cramming the diag at the University of Michigan. Marching into rallies in our Freedom Fighter outfits was the ritual that helped galvanize a national movement.

Shortly after the film was released, however, Rodger was railroaded into jail, while High Times forced me to disband the group, allegedly because NORML was unhappy about the competition, which seemed weird since our newsletter had been recognizing and supporting NORML chapters from inception, and many Freedom Fighter state groups were also affiliated with NORML, including the chapter in Boston that created the Boston Freedom Rally.

Our big campaign was bringing activists together for major rallies. We organized free campgrounds with free food and a free bus ride to the rally. When Rodger asked me what was needed for the organization, I told him we needed a school bus and council tipi. Within a few weeks we had both and took off for the Rainbow Gathering in Ocala, Florida, where I flew a High Times flag and nobody cared.