In 1991, High Times had an all-women weed-activist cover story featuring five of the nation’s top female activists under the cover line “Women of the Marijuana Movement: A New Wave Emerges on the Hemp Front.” “It didn’t do too well,” editor-in-chief Dan Skye told the Cut. Covers that did sell well: Grand Ruling Diva raving on the cover of the LSD special issue, a 2000 cover featuring a model named Watermelon, a woman posing as a mermaid for an issue about hydro, and, of course, Jenna Jameson under a headline “Pot & Sex: Porn Stars Toke Up.”
This month, the magazine celebrates 40 years at the forefront of cannabis culture with the release of an anniversary book, High Times: A 40-Year History of the World’s Most Infamous Magazine. The magazine has traditionally featured plenty of scantily clad women on the cover, but Skye says that’s changing. “As far as our covers, I’ve never really felt that we were sexist. What we’ve seen, though, is that women don’t do as well anymore for us,” he explained. “Maybe that’s the publishing industry. Maybe it’s because we’re a niche magazine, and our audience demands we focus down on cannabis and cultivation and cannabis issues. Maybe that’s it, or maybe we haven’t done as good a job on female covers in the past.”
Women have taken a prominent position in the weed world in the past few years, especially as legalization becomes closer to the norm. And it’s not just booth babes and budtenders, as Skye notes: Women are among the top activists; they’re running some of the major weed-centric businesses and dispensaries (especially in Colorado). “This is one thing about the cannabis industry: I’ve never felt that it discriminates against women in any way. There is no glass ceiling in the cannabis movement. If you have talent, if you have cultivation skills, business skills, cooking skills, if you can bring expertise from outside industries, you’re welcome,” Skye remarks, also noting that the High Times staff is 50 percent female.
But will the cover images — girls in bikinis holding pot leaves over their crotch, etc. — keep up with the changing position of women in cannabis culture? Skye says yes and mentions a cover the magazine recently considered featuring activist and weed entrepreneur Brooke Gehring (the founder of Patients Choice of Colorado). “She was standing in this huge grow room, wearing business attire. She’s smiling, she looked great, she looked dynamic, and so that really was a contender for the cover,” Skye told me. “We didn’t go in that direction, though. But, yes, covers like that are definitely contenders now.”
Some things, though, won’t ever change. The magazine’s one non-negotiable cover rule? “Nobody,” said Skye, “nobody poses on the cover of High Times without weed.”