High Times June 2017 issue, featuring Damian Marley (screenshot)

High Times changes ownership; investors include Marley son, Colorado cannabis power players

High Times is entering a new era.

The magazine started by a marijuana smuggler in the 1970s now has outside ownership for the first time, in a reported acquisition this week by California-based investment firm Oreva Capital, which valued the media entity at $70 million.

Among the group of 20 investors are musician Damian MarleyMassRoots, a Colorado-based cannabis social network; and Ean SeebKayvan Khalatbari and Nick Hice, the three founding partners behind Denver Relief Consulting, one of Colorado’s oldest medical marijuana dispensaries.

MassRoots, one of the first technology companies in the cannabis industry to go public, invested $100,000 in the High Times deal, CEO Isaac Dietrich told The Cannabist. “This is a great strategic relationship for us, and we expect significant shareholder return.”

Among the exciting prospects for MassRoots is developing new ways for its 1 million-plus users to interact with the well-known High Times Cannabis Cup, Dietrich said.

Colorado cannabis pioneer Seeb said he was “super excited” to be a part of the group purchasing the marijuana media property but declined to provide the amount of his investment.

“High Times is the most recognized brand in cannabis,” Seeb told The Cannabist. “Everybody I know in this industry grew up reading High Times, so it’s amazing to be a part of the brand now.”

Seeb, who has also served on MassRoots’ board of directors since 2014, said he’s looking forward to figuring out his role as a strategic adviser and maybe even as a judge in future Cannabis Cups.

“We want High Times to be a dominating force in the cannabis industry,” he said.

Oreva Capital CEO Adam Levin told the San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported news of the deal, that High Times “is the Coca-Cola of cannabis.”

According to Levin, the plans for building up High Times Holding Company (HTHC) include boosting the High Times Cannabis Cup, which debuted in 1988 and is held in multiple locations each year, and creating new events.

“The value is in the brand and its identity” Levin said in a statement. “We plan to do even more events outside of High Times like Business Summits.”

The Associated Press reported the investment group will hold 60 percent interest of HTHC.

The acquisition shows that marijuana has arrived in the mainstream, said Matt Rizzetta, CEO of North 6th Agency, a New York City-based marketing and PR firm that lists several cannabis companies as clients.

“Demand and curiosity for cannabis media and education has reached critical mass,” Rizzetta said. “Cannabis is no longer niche.”

High Times’ $70 million valuation is also good news for the larger cannabis media space, he added, comparing the High Times deal to billionaire Steve Ballmer’s acquisition of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers in May 2014.

“When (Ballmer) purchased the Clippers for $2 billion, the valuation of every other NBA franchise went up,” Rizzetta said. “The scale is different, but a $70 million price on a legacy marijuana media company may have a similar effect on the larger industry.”

High Times: The inside scoop on the magazine's 40th anniversary issue
The November 2014 High Times cover (via High Times)

High Times reports the monthly magazine has about 236,000 subscribers. Data from online media analytics firm comScore showed HighTimes.com had 588,000 unique visitors in March 2017.

The acquisition comes on the heels of another major move. In January, High Times announced it was moving its headquarters from New York to Los Angeles. The counterculture icon celebrated 40 years in the business in 2014, the same year recreational marijuana sales started in Colorado and Washington state.

The Cannabist’s Aleta Labak contributed to this report.

Watch cannabis consultant Ean Seeb on the Cannabist Show: