TV, Books & Film

Judge Roughneck
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by Rebecca Chavez An ensemble band with an easy amount of aplomb, Judge Roughneck is one of the staples of the Denver ska and reggae scene. Often appearing at Reggae on the Rocks, the band has a unique sound that has developed over 15 years and multiple band members. I was fortunate enough to catch up with long-time band members Byron Shaw and Brian Handlos before a local show to discuss the history of the band, some of their side projects, and how they got to where they are now. THC: How did you get started, and how has your sound changed over the years? BS: Well I wanted to do a two-tone cover band. That’s what it started out as. The Two-Tone movement, with The English Beat, The Specials, Selector, Bad Manners, all that British Invasion stuff from the 1980s. We started in 1995, originally as a cover band that did two-tone stuff. We wore suits, kind of like a two-tone review. Actually, ska is what really turned me on to reggae. I discovered ska first, and then naturally just went over to reggae. THC: So, you’re not doing two-tone covers anymore? BS: We still do the covers but we also write original songs and that’s really where the sound evolved, where the influences come in. Then you really are based on your influences, which are everything from dub to reggae to hip-hop. THC: I know you only really get together for shows and rehearsals, so what’s the writing process like? Does one person write everything on their own? BS: I write a lot of it, but everyone really helps me finish it. I’ll bring the skeleton to the band. The words and the groove, you know bass line, drumbeat. I’ll need help with the chords, I’ll even add horn lines, but then everyone helps out and adds to what I bring to the table, and even helps with changes to the bass line or the horn line. If it’s a change for the better, we’re all happy with that and that’s usually what happens. Brian writes his own songs, too. Everyone comes to the table with their own songs and their own sounds. THC: Twenty years is a long time to be together. How have things changed within the band? BS: We usually have seven to eight members, and actually there are only four original members at this time. The drummer (he was gone for a while and just came back), the sax player, and the guitar player are the other original members. BH: I joined the band in 2000. BS: So, we were already five years in. THC: Is this the only project that you work on together? BH: I have World Citizen Band, which is a Studio One backline project. I originally put it together to teach fellow musicians old Studio One standards. Jazz has its standards, blues same way, and reggae as well. Actually Byron and I collaborated on a project called 3D Lounge, how long ago? BS: Forever ago, at least ten years. That’s when it started. BH: Yeah, we wanted to do a jam session that was all the old Studio One reggae. BS: It was one of the first open reggae jams I’d ever heard of. We were an open jam, playing reggae. BH: Anyone who wanted to could come in and play. It became a scene. It was a happening. BS: I also have BSP, which is Byron Shaw Projex. That band’s funk, reggae, latin. And I’m in Winehouse, it is an Amy Winehouse tribute show, which is really going well. We have a full band, a 12-piece band with horns. We imitate shows we find on YouTube from start to finish and reenact that show. My singer does what Amy does between songs with banter and whatever’s happening. THC: So, you guys play Reggae on the Rocks every year, correct? BH: We have for the past 15 years, yes. BS: It’s our favorite venue to play. I think it’s fair to speak for everyone to say that. THC: What would you say has made this project work in the long run? BS: We just love it. BH: The songs. The reason I say that is because, in my time in the band, personnel changes have happened quite a bit. In the rhythm section, despite the different musicians who have played those parts, the songs carry, and have carried the music since I’ve been in the band, which is over 15 years. Some of the music that we play now, they were playing before I joined the band. It’s about the power of a song, and playing parts the way they were written that carries this band. BS: I agree with that. If a song sounded good twenty years ago, and can sound good twenty years from now, then you’re doing something right. People still get it and enjoy it. It doesn’t sound old, you know, it just sounds like good music. THC: The new Judge Roughneck album, Pick You Up was released on July 5th, and is available wherever music is sold and features Angleo Moore from Fishbone and Hazel Miller. They will also be returning to Reggae on the Rocks on August 22nd.
High Urban Hikes
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HUH4by DJ Reetz

With so many cannabis related companies and events popping up around Colorado these days, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Trudging through the mountain of supposedly “420 friendly” things to do can get a little exhausting, especially when those events all come with the caveat that consumption is strictly prohibited. For marijuana enthusiasts, finding an entertaining way to spend an afternoon while nicely toasted can be overwhelming in concept, yet paradoxically underwhelming in practice. I was lucky enough to attend one such event in the form of a beta hike put on by High Urban Hikes, a new walking tour of Denver that is promoted as a historical romp for those under the influence of THC.

The hike began outside the Brown Palace Hotel, the long-standing center of Denver’s socialite circle, where the upper crust used to come for clandestine liaisons with ladies of the evening afforded them by a subterranean tunnel connecting to what used to be a brothel that still stands across the street (though it no longer operates as such, at least to my knowledge). It was at this cultural landmark that the small group coalesced around tour guide and HUH founder Amy Rohrer, a small, eccentric woman with a passion for cannabis as well as the cultural and artistic history of the city with a zesty attitude to match.

“Legalization is patriotic,” says Rohrer from behind star-shaped American flag sunglasses, a reference to the title of this particular hike, the Pot is Patriotic Tour. It’s not just a love of the city that has brought this group together, it’s a love of the social progress around cannabis, and it’s influence on the ever developing culture.HUH3

Rohrer says she first got the idea for the hike after a stoned stroll of her own. After reacquainting herself with cannabis and finding today’s smokable flower too strong for her liking, an edible-enhanced walk set Rohrer’s curiosity ablaze so to speak.

“There were just these little gems everywhere I went,” says Rohrer, and with cannabis opening her mind’s eye in new and interesting ways, she began to absorb the myriad cultural and artistic beauties that populate the city. “I started to get to know the people,” she says, getting a more attuned knowledge of the city she had lived in as a young woman and grown reacquainted with upon moving back in 2011.

“The marijuana just made it all the more better,” she says. “It truly made me feel better about everything.”

The experience was eye opening, prompting a new found connection with the city, she says, and stirred the idea of HUH.

“How can I have the high of being a tourist in my own town?” posits Rohrer.

The answer: a stoner-friendly walking tour.

HUH2Now a certified international tour director, Rohrer led our group around some of the iconic parts of downtown. After interrupting high tea at the Brown Palace, the tour took us south to the Kit Carson monument at the corner of Broadway and Colfax, replete with facts about the historical origins of the city and the statues, architecture and people that made it happen. From here, the group hopped the 16th street mall ride down to Union Station, touring some of the revered drinking establishments. Along the way, Rohrer would stop to ask trivia questions, with a correct answer earning a random prize ranging from marijuana swag to dried geckos (still not sure what I’m supposed to do with them besides freak my girlfriend out). The tour concluded with a walk past the Museum of Contemporary art along Cherry Creek to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts before ending at the Convention Center’s iconic blue bear.

While smoking up on the hike is discouraged — a pre-hike email warned “Any obvious consumption on the hike may draw peace officers!” — I went, as usual, unharassed as I puffed away on my portable vaporizer as I walked around the city. For the time being liability issues prevent Rohrer from offering dosed treats to hikers, so pre-consumption is the recommended course of action.

The hike is a return to the boosterism that Rohrer is keen to point out played such a large roll in the foundation of the city and the state, and her passion for it shows through in her bubbling enthusiasm. It’s not just about marijuana, and it’s not just about the rich history of Denver, it’s really about the marriage of the two.

If a jaded townie like myself can enjoy an afternoon walking around like a tourist, then there is definitely something worthwhile to it. Check out for a list of upcoming tours.

June 2015 - A Letter to Our Readers
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“The key to success is to keep growing in all areas of life - mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical.”
~Julius Erving

This month marks four years since the idea of The Hemp Connoisseur was born. And what an amazing four years it has been. We have been privileged to be covering the Colorado cannabis industry during its most exciting times. As the pace of legalization has gained momentum so has our growth as a magazine. I find it fitting that after four years, much like a high school student after graduation, it is time for us to expand our horizons and leave the relative safety of our home base. It is with this in mind that I am proud to announce that THC Magazine will be publishing a national version in addition to our local issues starting October of this year.

In addition to this exciting development we have even bigger news. We have just partnered with Cannabis Network Radio to create Cannabis Media Source. We are truly honored to be forming this partnership. Cannabis Network Radio has consistently been rated in the top ten worldwide for cannabis podcasts. CNR also owns SiriusXM420 and is streamed live 24/7 on We believe this partnership is the first of its kind, bringing two cannabis media veterans with over a decade of combined experience together.

So what can you expect from Cannabis Media Source? For starters we will be increasing programming on Cannabis Network Radio. We are already signing some amazing talent to host new shows. The cannabis industry, especially when talking about hemp and marijuana, is so vast and multifaceted. We think the programming we are planning for CNR will reflect the full spectrum required to represent every demographic of cannabis enthusiast. We will also be implementing a video broadcast division, which will include talk shows and regular news reports in the coming months. To celebrate the formation of CMS and the launch of the national issue, this September we will be holding our first annual hemp fashion show “Victory for Hemp.” There are of course a lot more projects in the works for Cannabis Media Source and we will be making more announcements over the next few months. So stay tuned.

Four years ago a vision was born. The first stage of the vision was a magazine, but that was never the complete scope of it. Becoming a multimedia company was always what we wanted. When I met Dave Kowalsky, CEO of Cannabis Network Radio, we realized that we both had the same vision. We both wanted a media company that would present cannabis culture in a mature and informative manner. Now, here we are at the cusp of something truly momentous in an already momentous industry.

This is going to be fun!

David Maddalena


The Sky is the Limit THC Sits Down with Rebelution Frontman Eric Rachmany
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by Sam Ruderman Rebelution is a reggae rock band from Santa Barbara, California. Founded in 2004, the band has grown from playing the local UCSB college bars to selling out large venues and touring internationally. Their breakthrough album, Courage to Grow, became the iTunes Editor’s Choice for Best Reggae Album of 2007 and peaked in the Billboard Reggae Albums chart at #4. Rebelution’s next three albums, The Bright Side of Life (2009), Peace of Mind (2012), and Count Me In (2014), have all topped the Billboard Reggae Albums chart in the #1 spot. They have their own record label, 87 Music, and continue to collaborate with other producers and musicians to become the face of SoCal reggae. Eric Rachmany is the guitar/vocals frontman of Rebelution. For a young man who has seen great success, Eric is about as humble as they come. His music conveys powerful messages of love, social consciousness, and “bringin’ only good vibes.” These reoccurring themes in his music show through in his personality, and after spending some time with Eric away from the bright lights and tour-life, you learn that he is a regular, down-to-earth guy; however, he just happens to be headlining Red Rocks on June 20. THC: Can you tell us a little about the early days of Reb? How did you meet the guys and decide to form the band? Eric: We all met in Santa Barbara, either in school or on the streets of Isla Vista. A few of us found a commonality in our love for reggae music. At first we were a cover band and then slowly incorporated our own compositions. For the first year or so, we would only play in Isla Vista on the weekends. Back then there were fewer regulations, which was great for us. We got shut down a few times but for the most part we had the pleasure of playing in front of a built in crowd. At first hundreds, then thousands of people. THC: In college you majored in religious studies. Are you a religious person? Why did you choose that major and how has it affected your music? Eric: At first I was intent on studying music. At one point I became bored with the curriculum and decided to switch to religious studies. Sometimes I wish I had followed through with a music degree but when I think about all the knowledge I attained studying several religions of the world, I remain content with my decision. I decided to study religion because I DON’T consider myself a religious person. I’m continually fascinated why people believe what they believe, the cultural practices within religion and the music and arts within those cultural and religious practices. Most people can hear the Middle Eastern influence in my vocals. It comes from listening to it as a child and being exposed to cultural and religious practices that incorporate music and dance. THC: What was the inspiration behind your first album, Courage to Grow? What is it like to hear your own music on the radio for the first time? Eric: I’m not sure if we’ve ever really had an overall concept for any album that we have made. Every song is its own concept in my eyes, but the overall goal is to make a positive impact on the people listening. Our lyrics are also a reminder to all of us in the band to stay positive. I suppose the inspiration came from playing shows and the amazing fun times we had performing in Isla Vista. After that energy we certainly wanted to continue what we had going! We never expected Courage to Grow to be as recognized as it was and still to this day. I remember selling that album out of our small apartment in Isla Vista. It’s always a little weird hearing yourself sing. If you think you have a good voice when hearing yourself out of some speakers then something is very wrong with you. But, I’m honored people like it. THC: You play about 120 shows a year and continue to write and produce music, no easy feat. Is it hard to find a balance in order to stay motivated and creative as the popularity of the band continues to grow? Eric: Considering I do most of the songwriting for Rebelution, there is certainly a lot of pressure to produce quality music or at least what I believe is quality music. On top of writing, recording and producing about 99 percent of our music, we constantly tour to make a living. There are times when it all adds up and it gets tough. What keeps us going is the live performances. Feeling that energy from the crowd re-energizes us. THC: Reggae music is rooted in a tradition of social and political activism. You seem to carry this tradition on in many of your songs. Why do you think music has the ability to bring people together and get a message across? As a musician, how do you utilize this to incite change? Eric: I’ve always believed one can get a message across through the arts in a more productive way than simply expressing themselves through speech. This has definitely been the case for me. I feel more comfortable singing and expressing my thoughts through song. I don’t necessarily believe reggae is any more of a platform for social change and political expression than other types of music, but historically it has been that way. I believe this is because reggae hasn’t been as commercialized as much as other types of mainstream music. Reggae music comes from the people and not the “industry.” I’ve never considered myself a leader but by all means I consider myself an activist for social change. I hope our music has encouraged the listener to look deeper into social issues that we bring up. I consider myself an educator most of all. I’ve found that it isn’t just music that can get the listener to think rationally, but many different art forms. Many of us are stuck in our own ways, stubborn at times. The arts open people up a bit more and allow us to relate to each other on a more conscious, spiritual and accepting level. THC: You have played all over the world, where have some of your favorite tour stops been? Eric: Red Rocks is certainly up there. I always encourage my friends all around the country to see a show at Red Rocks at least once in their lifetime. Colorado in general has a special music scene. Hawaii is also very special to me. It was one of the first places people started listening to Rebelution. Any time we play there I’m reminded of our journey getting to where we are now. Most of all, Santa Barbara, CA is where we had the craziest shows of all time. The shows we put on in Isla Vista were pretty historic. THC: In your music, you reference the glorious herb that is marijuana fairly often. How has cannabis played a role throughout your musical career, and how has that role changed as you’ve matured as a musician and as a person? Eric: I’m not even sure where to start when talking about cannabis. Let me first start by saying I’m so incredibly proud of the advocates at the forefront of this movement for legalization. Again, I see Rebelution as educators in this movement. I want people to understand more about cannabis instead of classifying it as a forbidden substance. The first time it really clicked for me was when I heard people talking about herb in reggae music. When I was a kid I thought getting high was fun but I never appreciated it until I saw the bigger picture. To many people around the world, getting high is getting to a higher level of consciousness. You don’t need cannabis to get on this higher level but it certainly is a helpful way to get there. I’ve found that cannabis helps me get in touch with my body a bit more, allows for deep meditation and better yet a spark for creativity. To many Rastafarians, herb is considered the “healing of the nation.” We now know about the countless medicinal properties of cannabis. It’s fascinating to me that Rastas were already talking about this for decades. Legalizing it in California would be huge. Big props to the advocates in Colorado that made it happen. THC: What’s in store for the future of Rebelution? Anything in particular for fans to get excited about? Eric: We are currently writing new music for our next album. We are also looking to release an acoustic version of our last album Count Me In at some point in the near future. Eric Rachmany and Rebelution will take the stage June 20 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. BIG THANKS, Eric.
Cannabis Book Club
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by Rebecca Chavez

Like so many young people, my first encounter with cannabis came through the pages of books. Drug use is often a tool of subpar authors hoping to boost sales through inclusion on some sort of banned books list, and young-adult authors can sometimes take this to a point of excess. My first foray into the world of fictional drug use came through the classic, Go Ask Alice. The book was attributed to an anonymous author, and originally touted as a non-fiction account of real-life drug addiction. By the time I got around to reading it, however, it was considered common knowledge that the "editor", Beatrice Sparks, was actually the creator of the entire story. Despite the false premise, I was completely entranced by the story of the narrator, a typical teenaged girl who is given a dose of LSD at a party one night and soon falls into a life of debauchery and drug use.

I was in middle school when I first read Go Ask Alice. Knowing nothing about cannabis, I figured that it was as described in the novel. That is to say, I assumed that cannabis had the same properties as MDMA and was as addictive as a typical opiate. This is par for the course with young-adult literature. It is designed to ensure that young people never consider the possibility of doing drugs, and therefore avoids having an honest depiction of drug use. When characters in young-adult novels turn to any kind of intoxicant it typically ends poorly. Even Hamish, of The Hunger Games, cannot put a drink to his mouth without becoming a full-blown alcoholic.

The fear of drug use being depicted as somewhat normalized oddly carries into adult fiction. This could be due to the illegal nature of drugs. After all, though authors such as John Steinbeck and Margaret Mitchell acknowledge that abortion was happening before the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling, the characters in their books often pass a moral judgment that reflects one of the time in which the book was written. Authors who write about marijuana are likely doing the same thing, lest they be condemned for writing a factual account of what cannabis use looks like and expose themselves as one who would commit a crime. This doesn’t prevent all authors from exploring the topic, and through literature we can often see how the public opinion on cannabis has transformed over the years.

Drug laws are a fairly new invention. Many working towards legalization will point to the fact that morphine and opium were often prescribed by doctors into the early 20th century. Beyond this there was a thriving legal market that led to books such as Confessions of an English Opium Eater. The most famous early work on cannabis was Charles Baudelaire’s epic ‘The Poem of Hashish’, which was written when he was a part of a group known as the "Club des Hachichins" or "The Hashish Club". This club included other literary greats such as Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, and Honoré de Balzac, though they kept their use of cannabis out of their works. Written in the 1840s, the "poem" reads more like an essay. In it, Baudelaire extols the many virtues and vices of hashish and explains the drug in a way that may be familiar to the modern user. Any modern cannabis aficionado relates easily to the statement that "hashish often brings about a voracious hunger, nearly always an excessive thirst", though there is probably a little hesitation when it comes to Baudelaire’s later assertion that excessive use of hashish could lead to a God complex. Baudelaire’s judgment of the drug could be clouded by his love of laudanum, a legal (at the time) intoxicant that played a significant role in the deaths of many artists.

One of the most important aspects to consider when thinking about marijuana use in literature is that authors rarely remark on the ordinary. For something to worm its way into the pages of a novel, there must be something extraordinary about it. While cannabis is legal, discussion of the drug’s use appears to taper off, only to sharply increase in the 1950s. This was the time of The Beats. Kerouac and company made few qualms about their drug use, but can hardly claim originality for it. If On the Road taught readers anything, it is that Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy loved nothing more than appropriating other cultures and using their privilege to insert themselves temporarily into scenes that perhaps would have preferred to be unfettered by a group of entitled, blue-collar white men from New England. In San Francisco, Kerouac pauses to describe an experience Dean has with cannabis. In this experience, Dean spends days high on what he calls "green tea", experiencing visual hallucinations and indulging in self-harm. This sort of eye-roll worthy exaggeration of the effects of cannabis is typical of The Beats, who want desperately to indulge in what they see as taboo, and a part of a world they will never belong to.

Kerouac was likely influenced to write about drug use after reading Invisible Man by the much more competent Ralph Ellison. Ellison’s narrator smokes a joint someone gives him early in the book and has a somewhat transcendent experience while listening to Louis Armstrong. He describes descending into the music "like Dante" and seeing around the corners of the song. At the end of this brief exploration into the invisibility of Armstrong, the narrator of Ellison’s book declines to use cannabis again, stating "the drug destroys one’s sense of time completely."

Having the floodgates of drug experimentation in literature opened by Ellison and Kerouac allowed for other authors to insert cannabis into their modern works. Drugs are used with nonchalance in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, published in 1982 but set much earlier in the 20th century. A decade later, Jeffrey Eugenides captures the essence of the confident high school drug dealer in The Virgin Suicides’ Trip Fontaine, a character who later ends up in rehab. As we move towards a more complete picture of legalization, the depiction of cannabis in literature is likely to change as well. Young-adult fiction is likely to carry the same stigmas as always, but the authors of works for adults may become more comfortable with the righteousness of their own use and insert the drug into their works with more confidence.


K.I.D. Premiere Music Video for “The Bong Song” via High Times
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K.I.D. (Kids In Despair) are Toronto siblings Kara and Bobby. Today, High Times unveiled the music video for their track “The Bong Song”. The band will release their self-titled mixtape just in time for the holiday on April 20th. Get your lighters ready, take a hit and PRESS HERE to watch the music video for “The Bong Song. After high school, Kara and Bobby were deemed unfit for higher education.  The two found themselves dwelling in their alcoholic mother’s basement and tracking demos they would later classify as “garage pop”. Their debut release features cuts like "I Wish I Was Your Cigarette", a gritty ode to the anguish of youth and unrequited love, and "Stoned on the School Bus", a dreary ballad delivered from Kara and Bobby's melancholic perspective. PRESS HERE to watch the music video for "I Wish I Was Your Cigarette." Tour Dates April 20           Toronto, ON                The Garrison – EP Release Show May 1              Toronto, ON                The Great Hall – Canadian Music Week with Fidlar May 8              Toronto, ON                The Great Hall - Canadian Music Week – Osheaga Showcase May 13            London, UK                  The Stillery – Vice Party May 14            Brighton, UK                The Great Escape @ The Hub May 14            Brighton, UK                Canada House @ The Great Escape May 20            London, UK                  White Heat @ The Lexington May 22            Manchester, UK          Dot To Dot Festival May 23            Bristol, UK                   Dot To Dot Festival May 24            Nottingham, UK          Dot To Dot Festival July 18             Ottawa, ON                 Bluesfest August 15        Toronto, ON                Edgefest - Echo Beach
“WeedWatch” Parody of Apple Watch Advocates “Time for A Change”
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Seattle, WA - Coinciding with the release of the Apple Watch on April 20th, a Seattle-based multi-media company, Higher Ground, has created a parody ad to bring attention to marijuana legalization. The ad (“WeedWatch”) features a photo of the iWatch with the simple text, “Time for a Change: Legalize It.” A variety of marijuana-related icons and apps are featured on the device’s face.

One of the most innovative features of Apple’s Watch is the ability for users to customize the face of the device, and add additional information. In Higher Ground’s parody, they have taken the liberty to do just that! The watch face is full of humorous and advocacy-related apps including NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), SXSW, Leafly (a Yelp-like mobile app for marijuana), 7-11, Cannabis News Network, and Doritos. The time? 4:20.

“The Apple Watch is a revolutionary product, and the legalization of marijuana in States across the country is also a revolutionary movement,” notes Higher Ground Editor-in-Chief Michael A. Stusser. “The message of our parody is as simple as the solution to the War on Drugs: Legalize It. It’s time to end Prohibition, and legalize, regulate and tax cannabis at the federal level.”

Based out of Seattle, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, Higher Ground is attempting to “Elevate the Dialogue” and broaden the movement nationally. While legal in Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon, the use, sale or distribution of cannabis is still a felony at the federal level, and over 600,000 Americans are arrested every year for marijuana-related offenses. The parody ad is being strategically placed in weekly newspapers (and on-line) in states where marijuana initiatives are being proposed, including Ohio, California, Nevada, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts and Arizona. It will also run as the centerfold in the upcoming Marijuana Green Pages.

The launch of the Apple Watch continues to garner significant media coverage, as it is the first new product device from Apple since CEO Tim Cook took over the company. PreOrders for the iWatch began on April 10th, selling over a million units, and will begin shipping on April 24th. Using guerilla-style marketing, Higher Ground’s WeedWatch campaign will appear on posters, leaflets and mobile billboards adjacent to Apple stores nationwide.


Higher Ground produces the world’s first satirical news program about the legalization movement, along with a newspaper column and website. A multi-media company, Higher Ground creates highly-produced video assets including a flagship program (a mix between The Daily Show and CNN, just without that annoying Wolfe Blitzer fellow), a syndicated column on the legalization movement, a comprehensive and entertaining news website, events (Cooking with Cannabis!), along with viral social-media parodies.

Higher Ground has created a variety of videos and parodies that attempt to vaporize stoner-cliches (including a ReMix of Cheech & Chong’s iconic “Up in Smoke”), while also educating the public on the changing landscape of legalization. Along with their YouTube videos, the company has repurposed posters from the Reefer Madness era with an Original Artists Series, updated MadMen (whose characters smoke from vaporizers instead of cancer-sticks), and even crafted a Seattle Seahawks logo entirely out of marijuana in honor of the Beast Mode strain (named after running back Marshawn Lynch). Stusser’s Higher Ground column also runs in the Seattle Weekly.

Higher Ground explores and celebrates the elevated aspects of getting high. Founded during a revolutionary time of economic and spiritual transformation in the legalization movement, the brand will document and chronicle this incredible time in our history, and advocate for the legalization of cannabis (along with civil rights, gay rights, and human rights), and embrace the end of - yet another - prohibition.
The High Reel - The Culture High
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by Brittany Driver

When it comes to pot docs, I’d like to think I have a handle on things. I’ve watched plenty of them, and watched plenty of them multiple times. If you’ve heard of or seen any obscure ones please pass them along because I’m itching to see them all.

"The Culture High" is one of the latest cannabis documentaries and its release on Netflix has allowed it to spread into many American households, nightly. As far as the cannabis community is concerned, films like "The Culture High" - and their ability to touch viewers through a platform as popular as Netflix - are a battle helping to win the war.

So, with as much press as it’s gotten, how does "The Culture High" hold up with this selective sativa sweetheart? Did I love it? Would I leave it? Was it enthralling to the last drop or did it put me to sleep like a baby?

I’m happy to tell you. I really liked it. I liked it a lot. I almost loved it. But it was missing something.

The film starts out with some serious emotion as we witness a Missouri swat team burst into a home during the night. "POLICE DEPARTMENT DON’T MOVE!" we hear repeatedly as the men enter the house, a gunshot rings out immediately followed by the howling of a dog. A woman and child are ushered out. It’s not until moments after pup’s whining dissipate that we realize why the canine has stopped crying out.

Emotional right? Riveting, definitely. So I continue on watching. Because like a first chapter of a book, the first scene of a documentary needs to be powerful and give us a solid idea of where we are going and what we are getting ourselves into.

And "The Culture High" delivers on that. The film’s IMDB description reads, "Scours the deep-seated roots of this morally induced marijuana campaign and reveals the fascinating path it has taken to get to where it is today." I’d say the documentary hits that aspiration on the head.

We hear arguments dispelling claims about cannabis causing schizophrenia, a topic that Coloradans particularly might remember from posters in last years "Don’t Be A Lab Rat" campaign. We learn about the onset of the war on drugs - watch as president after president supported it. We see segments from a judiciary subcommittee hearing with Drug Enforcement Agency administrator Michele Leonhart as she struggles to not answer the question Colorado Rep. Jared Polis asks, "Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?"

This all happens, and more, within the first 40 minutes of the film...and there is still one hour and 20 minutes to go.

Which is where I find my point of contention - this film is too long. The two times I sat down to devote all my attention to it over a beautifully rolled joint, I fell asleep. I have been unable to watch the film in its entirety yet. I’ve watched the entire movie, two or three times now - but never all in one sitting. And maybe it loses a little power that way but the last movie I saw that was over an hour and half was The Hobbit - I was stoned as hell and managed to not pass out and not rupture my bladder. So I can’t blame my nappy on the cannabis.

I think alongside the amazing array of facts it covers, the touching and emotional personal stories peppered throughout and the vast spectrum of celebrities that take part in the film, this movie might have benefitted from an additional storyline - one that ran throughout.

Have you seen the science documentary, "What The Bleep Do We Know!?" In "What The Bleep" we have a ton of facts presented to us with the storyline throughout of a woman experiencing these different principles in quantum physics. So, in The Culture High maybe that first family, the one who had their home raided in the night, becomes a focus we go back to throughout the film. How did that raid affect the man’s work and family life? Maybe we see how a drug arrest can change a person’s ability to provide for themself or get money for school. Did his child suffer any consequences as a result of his arrest? Did the police department ever apologize for what they did to the family dog? This could have been a great way to keep me awake at least.

So did I like the film? Oh yeah! The evidence it presented dispelling long held beliefs about cannabis’ negative affects on our bodies and on society was extremely compelling. I think the film is lengthy because it aims to be all encompassing. While most pot docs are shorter, none of them cover the breadth of information that "The Culture High" does.

Next month, my aim is to chat with director of "The Culture High", Brett Harvey, to discuss his choices, what he learned and what inspired him to make this film and his previous cannabis centric documentary, "The Union." Check in to find out whether or not I can keep my eyes open for the entire interview. Kidding, kidding.  
April 2015 - A Letter to Our Readers
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"I have always loved marijuana. It has been a source of joy and comfort to me for many years. And I still think of it as a basic staple of life, along with beer and ice and grapefruits – and millions of Americans agree with me."

–Hunter S. Thompson

April is one of my favorite months of the year. There are a lot of reasons for that. First of all, my beautiful daughter came into the world a year ago this month. Also it is the month my amazing partner Jackie and I met 17 years ago. It is the first full month of spring and of course there is 4/20.

To me, I always viewed 4/20 as a yearly call to arms, so to speak, for cannabis activists everywhere. It is that day of the year that we would unabashedly congregate in droves to celebrate our love of the cannabis plant and consume it in public for all to see. It has been our day to say, "We don’t accept the limits the man has placed on our freedoms and the freedom of this amazing plant." It has been a day of mass protest and peaceful civil disobedience.

In Colorado the protests of the past have evolved into a celebration for all we have accomplished. And it is as it should be. We deserve the right to celebrate our newly found freedom. Of course in all of the states that don’t enjoy the freedom we have gained in Colorado, it will remain an act of protest until the cannabis plant is legal across the entire country.

But here in Colorado I wonder how long the 4/20 celebrations can go before they lose their luster. I wonder this because throughout my monthly pop-ins to dispensaries I have asked what everyone is doing for 4/20. More often than not I have witnessed a bit of a sigh from employees, that they will be of course holding some kind of special deals for patrons but they are not that excited about it. I find it akin to the feeling bartenders have as they approach New Year’s Eve. The common sentiment is that they would rather be spending some time with friends in the mountains or at home than dealing with the masses.

This in turn makes me ponder if 4/20 will eventually become overly commercialized, as we tend to do with any holiday in this country. Will Hallmark come up with a 4/20 line of greeting cards? When will 1-800-Flowers or FTD come up with a cannabis bouquet for the occasion? …On second thought that kind of sounds amazing.

Maybe it is inevitable that as we move into the mainstream. The romanticism of past years will be thought of with nostalgia as we cringe at what 4/20 may turn into. But until that time comes, let’s celebrate the fact that after over 80 years of prohibition we are winning the war on cannabis and working to change the world for the better. Just do me one favor, please light up with your friends and toke to all of the prisoners of prohibition who are still unjustly incarcerated for partaking in a plant, and give thanks to all of those that have fought so hard for you to enjoy the freedoms you have today in our great state.

May you have a safe 4/20 filled with great friends, lots of laughter and quality ganja!

David Maddalena





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