“I knew the 15th Cup, initially dubbed the “Peace” Cup in my promotional campaign, might not turn out so peaceful after all after I received a letter from Holland’s Queen of Hashish regarding a two-page feature in the December issue. Melting under the photographer’s lights, some samples looked like caramel, others like chocolate. The article, “Bubble All the Way” by Kyle Kushman provoked the ire of Mila Jansen, who was not mentioned although the process used to create the hash was based on something she invented.
“What a nasty piece of mistake,” wrote Mila angrily. “I cannot say stop publishing an enthusiastic article about bags that are a copy of my invention, that’s okay. What I would like is maybe an article on how since 1995, my inventions (the Pollinator and Ice-o-lator) have helped win 11 out of 21 Cannabis Cup hash prizes.”
At the time, hash judging was not a strong suit for Americans. Despite its popularity in Europe, hash had remained largely unexplored on this side of the Atlantic. American judges arrived jet-lagged and culture-shocked, and if you threw in a couple hits of Dutch water-hash you threatened to provoke a major meltdown. The antidote was drinking a glass of water while hanging onto the table with pressed fingertips. Nederbubble could be as high as 99.8% resin and despite being frighteningly strong, it was unexpectedly mild to taste. Although introduced by Nevil in 1988, water-hash didn’t appear en masse at the Cup until 1994.
Ten years earlier, Wernard Bruning of Positronic Seed Company, had sent a photo of one of his greenhouses to the Ask Ed column in High Times. Bruning had earlier founded Amsterdam’s first coffeehouse (Dutch code for weed shop) in 1973 (the now-defunct Mellow Yellow). He partnered with original Provo Kees Hoekert to re-create the Lowland Seed Company, founded in 1969 by Hoekert and Jasper Grootveld, which originally sold sprouted seedlings for home growing. In 1985, Bruning founded the nation’s biggest non-profit grow-store, seed/clone distribution center, Positronics. Eventually, he pivoted to medical marijuana and added a weekly newspaper Soft Secrets to his weed empire. Although he sold it in 1994, Soft Secrets became the largest cannabis publication in the world with a circulation over a million and published in seven countries.
Bruning had learned about sinsemilla after a trip to the East Coast and eventually brought over Ed Holloway to help build and run a greenhouse. Rosenthal made contact with Bruning after receiving a picture of the greenhouse. He informed Bruning about a grower named Sam the Skunkman in Santa Cruz. At the time, Bruning was working with an American living in Amsterdam who had the best connection in town for temple balls from Nepal. His name was Michael “Rich” Taylor. Bruning says he paid the airline tickets for both Rosenthal and Sam to visit Amsterdam in order to make suggestions for the operations. Bruning only wanted one of them to be hired as consultant, and the team picked Sam. At the time, none of them knew the mysterious Skunkman had recently been arrested and charged with cannabis cultivation in Santa Cruz, but had bailed out and fled the country, departing with 250,000 seeds. Sam’s partnership with Bruning was short-lived, however, as Bruning grew alarmed by the scope of Sam’s vision. Sam set up Cultivators Choice Seed Company as his replacement for Sacred Seeds.
Sam eventually secured a monopoly on production of medical marijuana in Holland under the name HortaPharm B.V., an agreement that required certification from the DEA. Several official DEA plaques were posted in Sam’s high-tech office and grow center created in 1990.
Some wondered how Sam built such an elaborate and professional operation so quickly after having allegedly arrived penniless, speculating he might have been supporting himself through an illegal operation. The real money at the time was smuggling weed into Germany where it reaped twice the price. Right after Bruning ended the partnership, his greenhouses were busted, the first grow busts in Holland’s history, which was convenient for Sam if he was launching his own distribution system.
In 1986, I penned the story that launched a thousand grow ops: The Man Who Would be King of Cannabis. The next year, I created the Cannabis Cup. The event didn’t evolve past a magazine dinner party/cover story for the first five years, but even so, it swiftly established a global standard for cannabis, as well as a center-of-gravity on developments in cannabis and hemp. The Cup also drove a horde of stoner tourists to the Netherlands duringThanksgiving week, when the Dutch celebrate the arrival of Sinterklaas (who rides a white horse), and Zwarte Piet, a boy in blackface dressed in Moorish attire (who carries a birch switch for punishing bad children, and bag of candy for rewarding good ones).
In 1987, John Gallardin of Rockford, IL, invented the Motorized Master Sifter, and began advertising in Sensimilla Tips, a trade magazine for cannabis cultivators. Growers had recently become aware of the benefits of sifting shake on screens in order to harvest trichomes. Wily growers discovered they could shake resin off frozen buds before selling them, and it didn’t seem to affect the weight nor appearance. In other words: endless free head-stash for any grower.
The main difference between 1986 and 1987 was the sudden appearance of screens mounted on wood frames, not just on all the tables at Cannabis Castle, but in grow ops all across the globe. The higher the micron number on the screen, the wider the gap. A 36-micron screen might produce a precious golden powder, while a 100-micron screen captured more green. The Master Sifter used a steel screen in place of silk or nylon screen because it was designed for sifting very large quantities of shake.
“Don’t discard those valuable leaves before removing the bare essence of your growing efforts,” wrote Gallardin. “The Motorized Master Sifter separates the glands without using your hands. Glands are sifted through a stainless steel filter and collected on a gathering tray. Electronic vibration does the work. Hand crafted mahogany with polyurethane finish for long life. Deluxe model with timer & light: $199.95.”
In 1989, the DEA launched a sweeping nationwide raid on High Times advertisers. It was an attempt to shut down the indoor grow industry, including the Seed Bank and High Times. But High Times was protected by the First Amendment and Nevil remained safe from extradition in Holland.
In 1990, Nevil tried to slip back into Australia to visit relatives, but was arrested at the behest of the DEA, who demanded his deportation to New Orleans. Nevil was held in jail for 11 months before he was able to secure bail and disappear. Nobody knew where he went, except for a few trusted friends. He simply sold the Seed Bank to Ben Dronkers under an agreement that allowed him to move back into Cannabis Castle to continue running the Seed Bank in secret while making other alliances.
In 1994, Mila Jansen invented a tumbler for dry sifting and named it the Pollinator. It was a modified dryer with heater removed. Robert Clark had recently shifted from smoking dry sift to smoking water-hash as it had a higher purity rate and unpressed powder could be harsh on the throat. Clark coined the phrase “if it doesn’t bubble, it’s not worth the trouble,” and spread the mantra around the Cup while allowing sips of his bubbly hash from his pipe. Interest in water hash at the Cup exploded.
In 1997, Reinhard Delph arrived at the Cup with a recently patented Ice-Cold Extractor, a five-gallon conical stainless steel vessel with paper filter that deployed pressurized air bubbles to separate resin heads. The next year, Delph signed an agreement with Mila, who created a water-hash extraction device using a modified washing machine. Mila sewed four screens into two bags to create the first water-hash bag-system. (In 2000 Delph filed for an improved patent on his water-hash device.)
In June of 1998, Clark released “Hashish,” which included a description of the Aqua-X-Tractor, a PVC water-hash device allegedly invented by “Baba Bob.” No mention of Nevil, Mila nor Delph. Along with the earlier ad placed in High Times by his partner Sadhu Sam, these efforts seemed designed to establish grandfather rights on water-hash extraction. Meanwhile, Fritz Chess of Eden Labs in California had also been experimenting with extraction devices between 1993 and 1996.
Marcus Richardson attended the Cannabis Cup in 1999 from British Columbia, and approached Mila about distributing the Ice-O-Lator in Canada, an offer she rejected. So Richardson modified her system by adding several additional smaller micron-sized bags with a pressing screen to wick moisture from the resin. He began wholesaling his “Bubble Bags,” while changing his name to Bubbleman.
Richardson’s product was as good as his instinct for branding. But his two distributors, Fresh Headies and Crystal Mountain, were quickly taken to court by Delph. Richardson settled out-of-court, agreeing to pay royalties. Over the years, Bubbleman became famous, and Delph faded away and died a forgotten man in 2017. After his death, Delph’s family filed litigation to shore up their water-hash patent.
Nevil eventually partnered with Howard Marks and Scott Blakey to create Mr. Nice Seeds. Blakey was the first insider to post extensively on these matters online using a forum on the Mr. Nice website under the name Shantibaba. He remains one of the few reliable narrators in this drama and his story is best told from his own words:
Howard Marks (Mr Nice) and I (Shantibaba) met during the late 1990’s while I was living and working in Holland. A few years previously (1994), I had set up the Greenhouse Seed Company [for Arjan Roskum]. Coincidentally, at the same time, Howard was released from a lengthy imprisonment in the USA. During the next few years, we became very good friends and with the success of my breeding work and help from Nevil, Howard and I discussed the possibility of working together. We decided to start a seed company. Nevil and I were already working together on various seed projects.
In 1998, when Nevil co-owned the Greenhouse coffeeshop in the Red Light Area, and I co-owned and worked with the Greenhouse Seed Company, we decided to do our best at the High Times Cannabis Cup. Until then, Nevil and I, operating as individuals, had won almost every prize for cannabis breeding. On behalf of Greenhouse, we blitzed the 1998 Cup, winning every prize other than that awarded for clothing. We came first and second in the overall Cup. I did not particularly like the event so decided to retire from it that year.
Coincidentally my relationship with my Dutch partner [Arjan] deteriorated. As a result, I sold my interest in the Greenhouse Seed Company and, as a sole trader, set up Mr Nice Seedbank (MNS), which has always been and remains a Dutch company. Shortly afterward, Nevil also left Greenhouse. MNS never entrusted plants to non-growers, including our ex-Dutch partners. Inevitably, confusion results when different companies use the same names for different sub-species, so MNS renamed them all. Seed companies’ most valuable assets are the original mother and father plants, which take many years to collect and select. MNS uses a collection of both Nevil and Shantibaba’s plants, the most pedigreed cannabis plants ever bred.
In 1999, Dutch law changed and no longer permitted the production of seeds. Due to the Gedogen law. however, selling seed imported from another country remained legal. We wanted to fulfill our project without breaking any laws. Accordingly, MNS moved its growing operations to Switzerland, where the law permits growing cannabis for seed production.
Nevil remained in Holland and continued to produce seeds and refine breeding techniques. Howard pursued his agenda by writing articles, books, and doing stand-up shows. I established Gene Bank Technology in the Swiss canton of Ticino, producing strains and seeds for other companies, as well as furthering the use of cannabis as a medicine and producing unique flower essential oils for the cosmetic industry.
All went well, with Ticino eventually playing host to the legally permitted establishment of over seventy growing shops and countless farms producing seeds. The Swiss authorities regularly inspected the premises and the activities taking place, tenaciously collecting any taxes due.
Then suddenly, in 2003, without any hint of a warning, a Ticino-based Prosecutor launched Operation Indoor, an avalanche of arrests, closures and headlines. The Ticino authorities seized GBT, shut it down, and imprisoned scores of innocent people. To this day, a state of confusion exists in Switzerland as cantons interpret Swiss law whichever way the local politicians want. I received a two-year term of imprisonment in Ticino. (However, I still have all the mother and father plants.)
The Six Day War
On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a preemptive strike against the Egyptian Air Force demolishing its entire fleet while parked on the tarmac, insuring air supremacy for the duration of a short war.
The Syrians were the real problem as they were plotting a shut-down of water to the Sea of Galilee, a plot uncovered by a Mossad agent high in Syrian secret services. To save Israel, the heights had to be seized. But seizing the heights insured a war with all Israel’s neighbors, a war Israel might not win (unless Israel eliminated the Egyptian Air Force from the equation). These factors became a matter of highest national importance. The Mossad agent inside the Syrian secret services had been uncovered and hanged. The Egyptians were fomenting a plot of their own, one also penetrated by Mossad. So Israel launched attacks on multiple fronts simultaneously, taking the Arabs by surprise.
An American eavesdropping (spy) ship, the U.S.S. Liberty, was unfortunately parked near the coast of the Sinai that day and without warning or notification was attacked by Israeli fighter-planes and torpedo-boats, who conducted an all-out effort to sink the boat. The 294 crew fought valiantly and heroically for hours and although 34 of the crew perished, the Liberty did not sink. Communication between the Liberty and the Pentagon was heavily jammed until long after the smoke cleared. Since the Liberty was collecting transmissions to-and-from everyone in the area, perhaps something was transmitted that required erasure. Long afterwards, Israel paid over $13 million to survivors and their families, in three payouts involving a decade of litigation.
After the Six-day war, a fund-raising campaign to support Israel’s defenses flourished globally. Israel knew the Arabs would seek retribution someday. Every possible revenue stream was milked, and that included enlisting counterculture Jews dealing red Lebanese hash produced in the Bekka Valley. Some of this involved prominent rabbis in New York City known to have young bohemians in their flock.
According to video testimony provided by Joe Barton, Tom Forcade became involved with a Mossad agent moving red leb out of Beirut, but the agent sadly ended up committing suicide. Barton was a leader in the biggest hippie commune in downtown Manhattan, a commune with a connection to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in Laguna Beach, CA, the infamous “hippie mafia” moving the majority of LSD around the world. The network was comprised of peace-loving, blue-class hippies like Barton, and led by the charismatic John Griggs, a former gang leader who believed world peace would manifest if enough people dropped acid. His entire gang joined the mission after one dose and everyone tossed their revolvers into a ravine, never to walk armed again. Barton met Forcade shortly after Tom appeared in New York, and before he started High Times. In fact, he remembers the day Tom got the idea for the magazine.
After Timothy Leary was evicted from the Mellon estate in upstate New York, and lost the support of Mellon heir Billy Hitchcock, he fled to Grigg’s tipi near Laguna Beach, which exposed the secret leader of the hippie mafia to intense scrutiny because Leary had just been declared the most dangerous man in America by President Richard Nixon. Also riding Leary’s coat-tails along with law enforcement was the mysterious Ron Stark, who claimed access to more of the essential LSD precursor than anyone thought existed. It would be used to flood the world with Orange Sunshine.
Griggs was suddenly poisoned by an experimental substance provided by the chemist working with Stark. He died in a hospital in the presence of his wife shortly after arriving at the Emergency Room in the morning after a night of agony.
Stark expanded the Brotherhood network into Europe. But someone dropped a dime causing Stark to be discovered in the Grand Hotel Baglioni in Bologna with his family.
The police search uncovered an American passport in the name of Mr. Abbott issued from the American Embassy in London. There was also an international driving license issued in Paris. Telexes and telegrams flowed between Bologna, London and Washington. The man was identified as the long-lost Ronald Stark….Among Stark’s contacts was Imam Musa Sadr, who possessed control over a section of the Shi-ite branch of the Moslem faith and boasted a personal army of 1,000 men. The area controlled by the Imam was said to include training camps used by the Palestine Liberation Organization. (Condensed from The Brotherhood of Eternal Love by Tendler and May.)
Jailed for weeks, Stark convinced a judge he worked for the CIA by exposing a terrorist assassination plot involving Germany’s Red Brigade. He was released and disappeared like a snow devil in a winter storm.
There was a lawyer who swooped in with Leary named Michael Kennedy and he was running a Communist network called The Weather Underground. Kennedy’s chief agents of chaos were Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, and they led a life of privilege while underground before coming out of the cold and getting university jobs with tenure and pensions. While their rag-tag collection of impoverished college drop-outs lived in great privation, Dohrn and Ayers relaxed in a deluxe Marin County houseboat, dining regularly at the most expensive restaurants in the area. The Weather Underground never seriously threatened the combined might of US police and armed forces but that didn’t stop them from declaring war on America. They told clueless teenage recruits it was okay to shoot police on sight. They instantly became the FBI’s most wanted and got massive media exposure far beyond any threat they actually posed. Their pathetic troops could have easily been annihilated by any special forces squad and every cell had been penetrated by FBI informants. Instead of taking down the network, the FBI disappeared the files, wiping the slate clean.
After Kennedy died, NORML created a lifetime achievement award in his honor, and strangely enough Dohrn, who had never done anything for legalization, was the first recipient. She had, however, promoted group sex, violence against police, and expressed admiration for Charlie Manson’s crew for having the guts to “stab pigs.” She’d engaged in the most outrageously violent rhetoric, and never expressed any remorse for the bombings or killings or friendly contact with agents of enemy countries.
Dohrn and Kennedy were avowed Communists allegedly working on a World Communist Revolution and they were responsible for bombing a San Francisco police station on February 15, 1970. Their shrapnel pipe bomb caused the death of Officer Brian V. McDonnell two days later. There was enough evidence to indict Kennedy and Dohrn, but somehow they escaped prosecution.
This bizarre award is a stain NORML can never remove until NORML admits Kennedy defrauded them while stealing High Times in order to enrich himself. Despite these crimes, Kennedy always remained protected by NORML founder Keith Stroup, who had gone straight from the University of Illinois to work in Senator Everett Dirkson’s office. Dirkson was the most powerful Republican in Congress at the time. From that post Stroup moved into Nader’s Raiders, recruits fresh out of law school selected from the ranks of children of the super rich. The Raiders got out in front of the counterculture revolution by creating consumer protection litigation that also paid well when they won their cases. Nader ended up on the cover of Time magazine several times, a rise to leftwing influencer so rapid it can only be attributed to some hidden hand of power.
The Yippies were created on December 31, 1967. Paul Krassner provided the name and Abbie Hoffman, Anita Hoffman, Nancy Kurshan, and Jerry Rubin attended the ceremony. Krassner had founded the most influential counterculture publication, The Realist, as a satire magazine in 1958.
Krassner had performed a violin solo at Carnegie Hall at age six. He would later say he had been brainwashed by constant practicing and never had anything close to a normal childhood. Inspired by Lennie Bruce, he launched a career in show business as a comic who carried a violin.
In 1962, Krassner interviewed a doctor who performed illegal abortions. The Realist soon became an abortion referral service. One day a mysterious character showed up at The Realist and soon became a co-conspirator with Krassner. He called himself Rev. George von Hilsheimer. Apparently, before launching his own religion, von Hilsheimer had been posted to military intelligence in Berlin.
Hilsheimer convinced Krassner to fund an experimental school to the tune of around $50 a month, and deployed the magazine to recruit students and staff. His first attempt (Camp Summerlane, Rosman, North Carolina) ended with the entire camp fleeing in terror from gunshots and explosions instigated by the local townspeople, who’d been enraged by rumors of nude swimming in the lake. Or maybe it was the inclusion of one girl who was half-black on the student roster. The town attack took place on July 11, 1963.
There were a few schools through the decades, up and down the East Coast, but in 1973, Hilsheimer was arrested by Volusia County deputy sheriffs and charged with practicing medicine without a license at his Green Valley School for emotionally disturbed children in Orange City, Florida. The charges were dropped after a raid of the property was deemed improper by the state attorney’s office. So Hilsheimer skipped (just like Ayers and Dohrn).
Meanwhile, kids from the school have come forth over the years with tales of hypnosis, forced injections, electroshock, psychic dreaming, sex with adults, rampant drug use and other weirdness.
Krassner and one of his favorite contributors, Robert Anton Wilson, launched fake news in 1967, inspired by Kerry Thornley, who had been stationed at the secret U-2 base in Atsugi, Japan, alongside Oswald.
You can tell by the photo Thornley was a flower child influenced by the Beats, Merry Pranksters and Maynard G. Krebs, among others. But after his Warren Commission testimony (which “proved” Oswald was a Communist), Thornley attended at a spook-infested summer camp in Colorado popular with the Koch family, co-founders of the conspiracy-mongering John Birch Society. And upon graduation of that program, he moved to California to become chummy with Johnny Roselli (one of JFK’s assassins.) Thornley then moved to Atlanta and commenced a long correspondence with Wilson during a time Wilson was letters editor of Playboy magazine, the first and perhaps only national magazine to interview DA Jim Garrison. Garrison was a rare public official with balls enough to go up against the CIA.
Wilson was heavily influenced by Thornley’s tales of secret societies running the world, a cosmology that bore similarities to the suddenly popular Morning of the Magicians, a text published in France in 1960, but released in America in 1963. One online reviewer sums the book up thusly: “Medieval alchemists producing atomic bombs and atomic fusion; the Nazi movement inspired by memory/dreams of Atlantis; the Earth is hollow and we live on the inside; the Moon, Mars and Jupiter and the stars are made of ice; and three Moons have crashed into Earth, producing great evolutionary jumps and de-evolutionary lapses, like “Gypsies, Negroes and Jews.”
Thornley wrote a similar opus to launch Discordianism, a goof religion. The opus was published in the style of an underground fanzine, a confusing mix of parody rituals, little-known Illuminati facts tossed with horror fantasies plucked out of Edward Plunkett and H.P. Lovecraft, who’d invented terrifying tales of monstrous conspiracies at the beginning of the century. Horror fantasy held a magnetic attraction in the LSD-fueled Sixties, and the higher people got, the harder it became to discern facts from fantasies, especially when so many fantasies revolved around the JFK assassination. It seems possible counterintelligence realized the Kennedy assassination could best be concealed by wrapping it inside stories of magic powers and alien visitations.
Mae Brussell came from a wealthy family, graduated from Stanford and Berkeley, and her father was a prominent rabbi in Los Angeles. She purchased all volumes of the Warren Commission as soon as available and launched a career as a radio host examining holes in the official story. Later, her research appeared in the Realist, and attracted the attention of John Lennon, who donated money to help publish her book. Much of her work involved Operation Paperclip and the MK/Ultra and Nazi connections to Kennedy’s assassination.
In 1977, after publishing Illuminatus!, Robert Anton Wilson was interviewed in Conspiracy Digest about the JFK assassination, the Illuminati, Aleister Crowley, UFOs and other issues. Brussell wrote a scathing response accusing Wilson, John Lilly and Timothy Leary of being CIA stooges leading the youth into a fake drug-addled utopian fantasy involving space travel. “Ask Leary or Wilson anything practical about today’s miseries and they change the subject,” she wrote. Wilson responded by denying he was a CIA dupe, insisting he was “a high official of the agency since July 23, 1973.”
One of the primary precepts of Discordianism was never believe anything about anything, and Wilson never wavered from his roll as a Prankster-deceiver. In hindsight, however, most of the nonsense people believe today about the Illuminati has roots in his fantasy trilogy, and his work shows little evidence of scholarly research into the history of the Illuminati. Wilson believed the-eye-in-the-pyramid was an Illuminati invention and ridiculed the suggestion the society could have been a Jesuit penetration of freemasonry.
Actually that is certainly one of many valid possible explanations, not something to be ridiculed. According to Wilson, the Illuminati were “good guys” fighting against royalty and religion, and not some devious intelligence operation deploying ends-justify-the-means morality. Wilson introduced the idea that the number 23 was an Illuminati concept (it never was) and usually insisted the society had died out shortly after being founded. He believed Oswald shot Kennedy and Garrison’s investigation was a fraud.
Wilson’s biggest contribution to Discordianism was called Operation Mindfuck or OM, and involved disturbing a person’s reality matrix with some mind-blowing conspiracy information and then trailing off into some make-believe maze of confusion. Life as zen koan wherein any sufficiently ambiguous answer works for any question whatsoever. If you ever got really high on psychedelics and had friends fuck with your head, you’ll recognize the sadistic underpinnings of Operation Mindfuck, and how it runs contrary to real investigations into conspiracies.
Within a few years, however, Antony Sutton published a factual book revealing how Yale University’s Order of Skull & Bones deploys remarkably similar rituals as the original Illuminati, and the Boners have successfully penetrated the upper levels of the CIA, investment banks and military industrial complex. Prescott Bush was a Boner and also acted as Hitler’s banker on Wall Street to the point of being chastised for trading with the enemy after the war. The society was created prior to the Civil War by the cousin of the heir of the American opium cartel (Russell & Co.) after visiting Southern Germany, and based off a secret fraternity he’d been inducted into while there. After establishing Bones, he became the biggest financial backer of John Brown, the terrorist who sparked the Civil War’s armed confrontation. No, this is not some Operation Mindfuck going down, just some simple truths that most people have yet to comprehend.
Brussell, in the meantime, was not up on Sutton’s research. Instead she began making outrageous claims, connecting dots that probably didn’t connect, accusing almost every celebrity death of being orchestrated by the CIA for some nefarious purpose, much the same way every school shooting is instantly branded a fake event by today’s Tin Foil Hat Patrol. Brussell claimed there were immense assassination plots to derail youth culture and even claimed Charles Manson was a Manchurian Candidate under hypnotic control. That was one of her wildest theories, and one that may actually have been true, although it would take decades for any solid evidence to emerge.
When Krassner began checking out her evidence of a Manson-law enforcement connection for a potential book on Manson, Krassner claimed it didn’t add up. He suffered a paranoid meltdown at his dentist’s office and departed the plains of conspiracy theory forever.
Meanwhile, Karl Koch was the son of a right-wing publisher in Germany, and he began rebelling against his dad as a teen. Karl had an early interest in computers as well as a fascination with the Illuminatus! Trilogy, claiming to have read the book 30 times. Karl may have been Wilson’s biggest fan and the two met briefly at a hacker convention. Karl was especially taken with the magic number 23 and seems to have swallowed Wilson’s imaginative suggestion that George Washington could have been assassinated and replaced by Adam Weishaupt, something based solely on a slight resemblance between the two men and the fact the eye-in-the-triangle appears on US currency (even though Weishaupt never used that symbol). Of course it was all OM and Karl got mindfucked.
Despite operating with only a primitive Commodore 64, Karl successfully penetrated a number of military-industrial websites around the world and sold passwords and other information to the KGB to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, a connection established by his cocaine dealers. Most of the money he earned from hacking flowed back into the dealers’ hands. Karl descended into a paranoid cocaine-induced psychosis for a while. Meantime the German authorities offered up a hacker’s amnesty in order to crack the subculture and Karl took the offer, but was soon found in a forest, burnt to a crisp. Strangely, his death was ruled a suicide, but a more likely explanation is the drug dealers killed him in retaliation for going state’s evidence.
Karl died on May 23, 1989.
The Peace Cup
When planning an important ceremony, better tweak the vibes as correctly as possible going in; otherwise they’ll get more unraveled as the event progresses. The theme for the Cup was “peace,” but I wondered if peace would prevail after the outbreak of a silent war over water-hash rights.
A mind-boggling 27 coffeeshops and 17 seed companies had entered, so I knew changes had to be made in how strains were judged. How could anyone possibly be expected to judge 27 types of cannabis and 25 types of hash in four days? Also, since judges have to purchase samples from the shops, just buying a gram of each sample would necessitate spending over $600. The solution? A celebrity pre-tasting. The plan was to collect the coffeeshop weed samples, bring them to a private dinner party, and have eight experts narrow the ﬁeld of 27 strains down to a manageable number.
In the past, relatively small amounts were distributed at 420 ceremonies, banquets and other special events, while the celebrity judges received samples direct from seed merchants at the traditional kickoff dinner. But the new strategy called for a new packaging concept. Our Dutch liaison purchased 27 glass jars, each of which held 60 grams of pot. At its peak, mounted on a tiered pedestal, this became the most glorious display of quality herb I’d ever seen.
Coffeeshop owners saw this pyramid of cannabis power when they came to register their strains, and they were amazed as well. It was fascinating to watch them crack open jars, take whiffs and make cryptic comments in Dutch. Some years are better than others; last year, for example, was… disappointing. But this year’s crop easily exhibited the best quality I’d ever seen! Even Derry from Barney’s Breakfast Bar, last year’s winner, was intimidated. “I thought I had a chance,” he said. “Now I wonder.” Derry was especially rocked by Tweede Kamer’s entry, New York City Diesel, grown by Soma.
After the coffeeshop owners departed, and the strains were photographed and entered into the Temple Dragon logs, I removed all names from the 27 jars, replacing them with letters. I had one jar left over after “Z,” which happened to be New York City Diesel. It got an umlaut “Ë.
Needless to say, the Cup video crew somehow found time in their hectic schedule to sample some strains. New York City Diesel had an overpowering ruby red grapefruit aroma unlike anything else. This jar became the most poached item on the table. There were several Nederbubble hashes that looked spectacular: Daisy Cutter from Bushdoctor, Blueberry Ice from the Noon, and Scooby Snaxx from Katsu. But most spectacular was the Jelly Hash from De Dampkring, concocted out of two of Soma’s favorite organic strains. Deep chocolate in color, it snapped apart when stretched, and light showed through when a slab was held to a window. It was the most super-pure hash I’d ever seen. Was this Soma’s breakout year? Previously, he’d only won a few minor awards. By the end of the ﬁrst day, the video crew already had a mantra: “It’s all about the Jelly!”
This would be a good place to interject that Nederbubble was not universally admired as the ultimate cannabis experience. Some compared it to whiskey versus wine; “I can’t be smoking water hash,” said one breeder. “I’d never get anything done. It’s too strong.” “I like the taste of imported hash better,” said a coffeeshop owner. In the past, we’d often separated Nederhash and imported hash into two categories; this year they were lumped together, uncomfortable bedfellows, as we would soon discover.
The following day, we photographed and videotaped the seed strains. These were divided into two categories: indica and sativa-dominant. Judging of these strains was reserved for celebrity judges.
I was especially impressed by Sage from THSeeds. Run by two American refugees, THSeeds has been vying for an award since the 9th Cup, always bringing in a remarkable plant but never scoring a trophy. Would this be a winning year for them? The competition in the sativa category was intense, with a large number of Hazes, the most difﬁcult and time-consuming strain to grow. The tour operator suddenly began having hot ﬂashes over the appearance of so much weed in one place. At the eleventh hour, he was struck by a premonition the banquet was going to get busted. I chalked it up to paranoia from excessive Nederbubble testing. But clearly, I was the one on Nederbubble, as every jar contained twice the 30-gram legal limit for personal-use cannabis possession in Holland. Even coffeeshops are only allowed to have 500 grams on hand at any time. Break the 500-gram rule and the police will yank your license. Forget about personal possession—we were carrying over three times the legal limit for a coffeeshop! No wonder Mike was worried.
“Get rid of two-thirds of the weed,” he cautioned. “There’s a new government in town, and the narc squads have been doing hit-and-runs on coffeeshops. There’s a clampdown going on.”
“Are you crazy?” I said. “The celebrity judges need as much as possible for the pre-test. We’ve never had any problems with the cops in Amsterdam.” Well, not exactly. At the 7th Cup, we were booked into the exclusive Okura Hotel. We’d heard Cheech and Chong had thrown a ﬁlm wrap party there in the ’70s, and assumed the hotel was cool with pot. But management called the police about “unauthorized pot-smoking” stinking up the hotel. I was asked to distribute a letter requesting that judges conﬁne their toking to the Pax Party House across the street. Privately, I told everyone to keep a towel under the door, open a window, and keep it cool, the usual tricks mastered in college dorms across America. The head of the local precinct ended up visiting the expo at the Pax, and must have picked up on our burgeoning effort to spiritualize cannabis use. I got the impression he approved of us—or at least liked us—because he ended up cooling out the Okura staff, who wanted us ejected from the premises ASAP. It had remained my sole confrontation with the authorities while throwing the town’s biggest annual pot party for the previous 14 years.
Meanwhile, my hotel room was transformed into a video-editing studio, and every spare second was spent trying to edit the video presentation for the opening ceremonies. We’d missed videotaping one or two hash varieties that had arrived late. They’d been tossed into a bag with the already-videotaped hash, so I laid all the hash on the ﬂoor in alphabetical order, and tried to match the video clips to the samples to ﬁgure out which ones were missing. Rather than pack up the hash and hide it, I left the samples on the ﬂoor and put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door before we hustled off to the pre-test dinner.
I wasn’t a big pot-smoker when I came to High Times. Not that I would ever turn down a free hit, but I never went out of my way to acquire marijuana, and it never became a major part of my life—not until I started working at High Times.
In 1969, when I was in high school, we thought of ourselves as members of “the movement.” We marched against the war in Vietnam, smoked marijuana, rejected establishment religions, and experimented with new ideas in spirituality. Many of us thought our movement was destined to take over the world. But where did this movement come from? Initially, I assumed it originated with European bohemian culture, but the more I investigated the history of the modern counterculture, the more convinced I became Europe was not the source.
Peace culture is probably as old as time, but our counterculture version began forming in New Orleans, which was established as a French colony by John Law in 1717. The colony was supposed to generate proﬁts for rich investors in France, but obviously didn’t produce quickly enough. Three years later, Law was run out of France, and immigrants who had joined his get-rich-quick scheme survived only through the help of the local Choctaw Indians.
Very quickly, a focal point for slaves, Indians, and nonconformists appeared in the city. Originally named Place des Negres, it was soon renamed Congo Square. It was the only place in North America where blacks, whites, and Native Americans could congregate and hold ceremonies—a cultural autonomous zone. Mainstream European culture had long been dominated by fundamentalist thinking, a mindset that creates crusades, inquisitions, and blind obedience to male authority ﬁgures. But Congo Square allowed for natural ceremonies to emerge. When a cultural autonomous zone is created, peace culture spontaneously erupts. Native American activist and poet John Trudell calls this “all tribes culture”; I call it “the counterculture.” The Hopis call the saviors of the earth, “Rainbow Warriors.”
Although African tribal culture played the dominant role at Congo Square, Native American culture provided a huge element as well, still in evidence at Mardi Gras today. Congo Square spawned jazz, which spawned rock’n’roll. The culture traveled up the Mississippi to Chicago, where white guys like Mezz Mezzrow got involved. Mezz was heavily persecuted because he married a black woman and created the ﬁrst mixed-race jazz band. His book Really the Blues is a masterpiece, one of the most under appreciated works of American literature. Once the culture landed in New York, it inspired the rise of the beatniks. It jumped over to San Francisco and help create the hippies.
Wherever you find this culture, you will find improvisational ceremonies, marijuana (or some similar mind-expanding sacrament), and an absence of bigotry. The counterculture fosters spontaneity and improvisation—not dogmas. That’s why counterculture people look and talk different. We are free to customize our culture on the spot, because our Bible is written in our hearts. When Louis Armstrong shaped and deﬁned the solo, he was grooving in that ceremonial space that invites spontaneous creation. Just like when Grandmaster Theodore invented scratching, or when Willie Will of the Rockwell Crew invented the head-spin. They were channeling improvisational energy. Corporate mainstream culture does not create such astonishing cultural innovation.
The more I studied the counterculture, the more I realized our goal was not to create a religion, write a book, establish dogmatic rules of behavior, or create elaborate chains of command under centralized control. The goal was to create temporary autonomous zones where improvisational ritual could take place. All we had to do was hold the ceremony and allow the vibration to emerge.
Most people know 420 started in Marin County, California with the Waldos. But the Cannabis Cup was the ﬁrst international event to embrace the 420 concept wholeheartedly, and played a major role in spreading 420 ceremonies around the world. It seemed like peak moments of improvisational ritual began emerging at every Cup, especially at the 420 moments, although you never really knew when or where the vibes might suddenly jump off. Some people had full-blown spiritual epiphanies at the event.
It wasn’t until the 8th Cup that I started trying to educate the media about the rituals that were spontaneously emerging at my ceremonies. All the press ever wanted to know was , “How can you judge so many strains in four days?” Morley Safer and a 60 Minutes crew came. At the press conference, we unveiled a portrait of Cannabia by Alex Grey, and Stephen Gaskin spoke about his experiences in jail and the refusal of the Supreme Court to hear his religious-rights argument. I explained how soma, the central sacrament of the Rig Veda, was actually cannabis. Safer didn’t attend our little show, but the 60 Minutes crew ﬁlmed it. The next day I learned my scheduled one-on-one interview with Safer had been canceled. Needless to say, no mention of counterculture spirituality appeared when the segment aired. I now realize my interview with Safer had been cancelled by Michael Kennedy, who was close friends with Shana Alexander as both spent their summers in the Boner enclave in Wainscott, NY.
One of my favorite characters appeared at the 8th Cup (also called “The Rainbow Cup,” because Rainbow Gathering veteran Garrick Beck directed the ceremonies). Despite the freezing temperatures, a character arrived dressed like a sadhu from the Himalayas, barefoot and robed. But every time some signiﬁcant improvisational moment occurred, I noticed this mysterious sadhu was right there in the thick of it. I never saw anyone get so connected with the vibe so fast, before or since.
In an attempt to force the press to deal with counterculture spirituality, I established the Counterculture Hall of Fame at the 10th Cup. By honoring spiritual leaders of the culture, I also hoped to define the culture, as well as channel energy on a righteous vibe, not high-holy or bliss-ninny vibe, but truly righteous. The ﬁrst inductee was Bob Marley, and his widow, Rita, made an unexpected surprise appearance. We’d already created the Cannabis Cup Band to provide a musical backdrop for the ceremonies. Rita was so impressed with the band that when she heard them at soundcheck, she gave me a look of amazement and asked, “Who ARE these guys?” She’d never seen so many white guys cranking reggae. The band had a couple ringers from Jamaica, including a close friend of Bob’s, Ras Menelik,” who’d been Marley’s official Rastarfarian priest.
Rita closed the awards show by singing “One Draw” with the band, and she invited the winners to come up and dance on stage during the song. It was an amazing moment, and ever since, the winners were invited on stage and danced at the end. That’s how our ceremony grew. We waited for peak improvisational moments to emerge, and when they did, they got incorporated into the ceremonies.
After inducting Louis Armstrong, Mezz Mezzrow, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs into the totally sexist men’s counterculture Hall of Fame, we finally got around to inducting a woman, Ina May Gaskin, at the Goddess Cup , where the bliss factor hit a peak. The bonding and heavy support vibrations left many helpless and teary-eyed. Patti Smith provided an inspirational performance many felt was the highlight of the event. Later, I was crushed to discover French activist Michka felt cheated because a video spoof of Survivor called “Cannabis Castaways” had upstaged the goddess vibration at the kickoff dinner. Instead of presenting a documentary celebrating the Goddess, I screened a campy MTV-style reality show. I hope we made up for it with our Ina May Gaskin induction later in the week. Ina May created the modern midwife movement, and her popular classic Spiritual Midwifery remains a most enlightening birth book.
When Krassner, founder of the counterculture press, was inducted the following year, I dropped the network-TV concept and concentrated on making a serious documentary detailing Krassner’s contributions to the counterculture. It was a breakout year for the Cup’s video productions, which were becoming more and more important to setting the vibes for the event. But I wouldn’t uncover Krassner’s bizarre intel connection for decades.
For the 15th Cup, I wanted to channel Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. I tried hard to get Joan to attend and made tons of overtures to Dylan (although we were never actually sure if he got any). Later on, after reading Dylan’s brilliant memoirs (Chronicles, Vol.1), I’d learn about Dylan’s rage against being turned into any sort of counterculture spokesperson.
Joan’s cousin, Peter Baez, a California medical-marijuana activist, did attend, however. Larry Sloman, who had dogged Dylan and Baez during the historic Rolling Thunder tour in 1975, agreed to give a seminar. I picked up the new edition of Sloman’s account of the tour, On the Road with Bob Dylan, and was mesmerized to ﬁnd a peak ritual moment happened during a sunrise ceremony presided over by a Native American named Chief Rolling Thunder. It was clear from the book Dylan had an understanding of counterculture spirituality, and had even painted his face like a Native American warrior during the tour. He also wrote a song about pot called “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” If you multiply those numbers together, you get 420. How cosmic is that? I intended to play the song every night at the Melkweg, just to see if anything major would jump off afterwards.
After the pre-test, we started packing for the trip back to the editing studio (my hotel room). It was very late, and I wondered where we were going to ﬁnd a cab. One of the Amnesia crew had a vehicle parked outside: essentially a three-wheeled motorcycle with a ﬂat-bed pickup on the back. He insisted on taking us home—“Ride like a real Amsterdammer!” After we loaded the equipment and weed, there was only room for three of us. I heard some comments like “not exactly street-legal.” Wouldn’t that be funny, I thought, if we got stopped and they searched our bags? We still had over a thousand grams of weed, earmarked for the display case, the kickoff dinner, photo shoots, and Pax 420 ceremonies.
It turned into a hair-raising ride, on some bike trails, some trolley tracks, and even some real roads, but we made it back to the hotel without incident. The crew helped carry the bags up to my room on the second ﬂoor. When we stepped off the elevator, we were hit by an overpowering aroma of cannabis. “Somebody must be toking up big-time,” I said. But as we got closer to my room, we realized the smell actually emanated from within. Even worse, the “Do Not Disturb” sign had been removed, indicating penetration into our sacred Temple Dragon lair.
It appeared the night staff had changed the sheets on my bed and left a fruit bowl, so I assumed they overlooked the enormously stinky piles of hash on the ﬂoor. I turned on my computer and we started viewing tape, comforted by the knowledge that tomorrow all this weed and hash would be transported to the Pax Party House, where the ﬁnest samples were going to be placed into a display case for all the judges to see.
Some ten minutes later, I heard a noise at the door and the words, “Amsterdam Police, get on the ﬂoor!”
I didn’t even look up, assuming it was one of the crew playing a joke. I was thinking, “That’s not funny.” Then I looked up and saw a policewoman, quickly followed by what appeared to be a SWAT team. I hit the ﬂoor, and my hands were cuffed behind my back.
They pulled each of us out of the room separately. I was escorted through the lobby, which was thankfully empty, except for a dozen more police. Who did they think I was, Pablo Escobar? I was placed in the back of a police car and driven across town and put into a cell by myself. Naturally, I just wanted to get a call in to the High Times attorney in New York, but that was not Dutch policy. “No phone calls,” they told me. Someone predicted I would remain in jail for the remainder of the weekend, meaning I was going to miss the Cup kickoff banquet as well as the ofﬁcial opening festivities.”
“The cell was freezing. I napped for a few hours, but woke up cold and couldn’t get back to sleep. In the morning, I was unexpectedly loaded into a van and taken to a different station in what appeared to be the most exclusive part of old-money Amsterdam. My handcuffs were removed, and I found myself in a corner ofﬁce on a high ﬂoor, where I met the top drugs cop, who turned out to be a warm and gentle guy. All my Cup documents, the codes to the pre-test, my video-shoot schedules, copies of High Times, a copy of my book Adventures in the Counterculture, and other Cup-related documents were spread out on his desk. We shook hands; he noted mine was somewhat clammy.
“I had a rough night,” I shrugged.
After examining my papers and discovering who I was, this policeman decided to release me, against the advice of the prosecutor who’d wanted us held all weekend—provided I signed a confession to possessing the three kilos of pot and hash. He explained I would likely have to pay a ﬁne in a few months to clear things up.
It’s not allowed to have this much cannabis in your possession,” he explained. “But I can see you are a nice guy, and your event should go on.”
Several hours later, I found myself outside, breathing fresh air and feeling the awesome beauty of freedom, and was reunited with two crew members, both of whom were completely off the hook, thanks to my signed confession. The police returned all my essential documents. It was almost 4:20, and we’d blown an entire day’s shooting schedule. Worse, we’d just gone from the weed kings of Amsterdam to absolutely weedless! Even our personal stash had been conﬁscated. The product and glass video shoots we were supposed to have executed this day would be jettisoned like heavy bricks on a long march. It would be a struggle to catch up, since we had multi-camera shoots in twin locations to arrange for the next ﬁve days, and presentation videos that had to be edited for each event.
“Don’t tell anyone about this,” I murmured as we rode the trolley back to the Leidseplein. “Knowledge of this could cause widespread discomfort and wreck the vibes. We must act like nothing happened, like we overslept or something.”
We went back to the hotel room, which was emanating fearful vibes, and found the videotapes intact and my computer still functioning. Next to the computer was a huge slab of Jelly Hash—no doubt mistaken for a melted chocolate bar.
Then I noticed 30 Scooby Snaxx laminates. The room started emanating a lot less trauma after hits on Jelly and Scooby! In 15 seconds I went from feeling like I had to check out of the hotel immediately to feeling like staying. There simply wasn’t time to relocate anyway. I had an hour to edit the video presentation for the kickoff dinner, which was supposed to include the results of the pre-test. In my haste, I listed Morning Glory ﬁrst and New York City Diesel second, because Morning Glory had the most overall votes. Later, Kyle would suggest that Diesel should have been number-one, because it received the most ﬁrst-place votes.”
“By the time we got to the Pax, the kickoff dinner was starting and it was time to roll video. Of course, Mike Esterson wanted weed, lots of weed, since everyone was pressing him for samples. Reluctantly, I explained in conﬁdence what had happened. When I told Mike where I’d spent the night, his face went white. I had to eat crow too, about how stupid I’d been not taking his advice.
Fortunately, he had the seed-company samples, which had been stashed at another hotel. It was enough to satisfy the celebrities, but not the crew, most of whom were mystiﬁed. “Where’s the weed and hash?” It became the crew mantra, because they found so little available during the event. Only four people in the room knew why. I spent the night handing out Scooby Snaxx here and there, trying to stretch the little stash I had.
The three hash judges, Jorge Cervantes, Freedom Fighter of the Year Shawn Heller, and the winner of the 420tours contest, were supposed to get samples at the dinner. Mike got on a cell phone to round up some hash, but the samples didn’t arrive for 24 hours.
Other than that glitch, the Cup went off without any further incident. Mila had her confrontation with Kyle at the Pax. De La Soul, Fishbone, Defari, and many other hip-hop acts performed great sets, and everyone remarked how the crowd was the most polite and well-mannered ever. The peak improvisational moment came when the Cannabis Cup Band took the stage and introduced Article Dan from Trinidad, who made up a song on the spot titled “Your Time, My Time,” and dedicated it to High Times and the Cup. For the rest of the event, one could hear judges singing those lyrics in coffeeshops around the city. “My time, your time, my time high! Who’s really high? I’m really high!” Article Dan’s performance, along with all the other highlights of the Cup’s entire history, was released on the ﬁrst Cannabis Cup DVD.
The day after the awards show, I went to the traditional 420 ceremony at the winning coffeeshop, which this year was Barney’s. Soma burst into the room like a man on a mission. He’d just purchased $200 worth of the winning Old Church hash. He threw it on the table with disdain. He sat down and loaded a bong with a slab of Jelly. He held another slab in his hand and worked it into a ball as he sang love and praises for his Jelly, which sells for three times more than any other hash in Amsterdam. Then he turned his attention to the Old Church hash. “If Helen Keller and her two blind sisters were the hash judges, they could not….”
Bluebird had given a similar speech after failing to capture a hash prize at the 8th Cup. For many years thereafter, the Bluebird refused to enter the event, even though they clearly had some of the best hash in Amsterdam. By some karmic coincidence, someone mentioned that the Bluebird had just gotten hit by a narc squad. Soma looked stricken. He stopped his rant, pulled out a cell phone and called Harry to make sure he was OK. And he was. Whew. “Hey, I agree with you,” I told Soma. “Americans can’t judge hash. The Jelly was the best hash. It deserved the Cup in my opinion. I’ll tell you what; they gave me a Cup at the awards show. I’ll give my Cup to De Dampkring in recognition of the Jelly.”
Soma whipped out his cell phone and called Paul at De Dampkring, so I could repeat those words to him. However, I neglected to tell them that particular Cup, which was supposed to end up on my ﬁreplace mantle, had been stolen from the backstage area the night of the awards show, so it was probably going to take a while to deliver on the promise.
Later that night, I told Arjan from the Green House what had happened. “You are making a big mistake,” he said. “First of all, that hash from the Old Church was sold to them by the Rokerij [owned by Arjan’s brother-in-law]. It’s called Christmas Butter, and only six kilos a year are produced. It is my personal favorite hash.”
Suddenly, there I was again, smack in the middle of the biggest, longest running competition between two cannabis titans: Arjan of the Green House and Paul of De Dampkring. These two had been vying for the Cannabis Cup for years—although De Dampkring did drop out for three years because they got tired of having to spend so much promotion money to compete. We’d changed some rules to make the contest more fair, and as a result they came back into the fold. The Cup wasn’t the same without Paul and Arjan battling it out. But my mind was already plotting a new ceremony. Medieval silversmith Robin “The Hammer” Ludwig had to forge a Cup on Overlook Mountain, on the winter solstice, near where Bob Dylan bought his ﬁrst house and lived for many years, an area rich in counterculture vibrations, holy ground for peace culture. I needed to deliver this Cup to De Dampkring , and hope it brought enough positive energy to clear the air, because the 15th Cup… It really was all about the Jelly.