Written by Justin DeLuca
Steven Hager has been at the forefront of Pot Culture for decades. As the former editor of High Times Magazine, author of a number of books, musician, filmmaker and all around counterculture and cannabis rights activist, he has played an invaluable role in marijuana’s rise to the forefront. Our creative director, Justin DeLuca, was lucky enough to score an interview with this singular figure. Hager’s conversation is illuminating, his words creating an amazing diversity of facts, theories and punchlines in a way that gently prods at your sensibilities.
Justin DeLuca: With legalization on the horizon, is marijuana at risk to become the next cool thing ruined by corporations pandering to rich white people? I’m thinking of examples like burning man, here.
Steven Hager: With legalization comes the responsibility to treat the plant with respect. And protect the kids. It’s a fact that an early obsession with cannabis holds back many teenagers from achieving their maximum. And yet, there is no harm in experimentation. The teens that experience cannabis often excel to great heights. I don’t think alcohol, tobacco or cannabis should be advertised. The important thing is for young people to understand in order to reap the magic, they must respect the plant and not abuse it. There are times when it’s appropriate and times when it’s not.
JD: You’ve spent your career trying to get weed legalized and now that it’s legalized in a number of states, what’s next for you?
SH: Well, I just finished two months encouraging people to get involved with investing in stonks and crypto. I’m about to release an album of my songs titled Green Easter by the Seeds of Doubt. I have a half dozen documentaries I could be working on.
JD: Weed being illegal made it part of the counterculture. Now that it’s becoming legal and people smoke it with their parents is weed still “cool”?
SH: Most families aren’t super comfortable getting high together. Maybe that will change.
JD: It seems like people used to smoke weed, in part, as a way to rebel against the status quo. How does that change when weed is socially acceptable?
SH: People did it because it made them feel good. Back in the sixties we didn’t care what the straights were doing. We were too busy creating a new zeitgeist.
JD: What was it like the first time you got high?
SH: Illinois ditchweed. Don’t think I got high. Maybe I did. Weed got supercharged after I took a few LSD trips. After that, weed was never quite the same.
JD: Why were/are you so passionate about cannabis legalization?
SH: When I came to High Times I wasn’t a stoner. In fact, I don’t think I ever bought cannabis. But then I never turned it down either. I knew cannabis was wholesome compared with alcohol and tobacco and couldn’t understand why all the propaganda against it. When I looked into it deeply, I discovered cannabis was at the root of most of our major religions, a fact that had been disappeared. I also realized the plant could replace most petrochemical products and provide bio fuels. I thought it was just a matter of getting the truth out to as many people as possible.
JD: What do you think about the state of the cannabis industry in the United States? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment like you contributed to the acceptance of this plant across the country.?
SH: Cannabis industry is a big turnoff to me. It’s all about greed.
JD: Can you tell us about your octopus theory/conspiracy?
SH: I have spent a lifetime trying to lift the curtain on the real deep state and concluded old money has always conspired in secret to rig the games. The biggest game has always been fomenting war for profit. Wars don’t happen by chance, but usually have been well planned in advance. They are ignited typically by false flag events. The sinking of the Maine was a perfect example.
JD: What was it like covering and writing about the hip hop movement so early on? What do you think of hip hop nowadays? Anyone in particular you prefer or like to listen to?
SH: Since I’m working on an album I mostly listen to my own compositions at the moment. The last song that tripped me out was Despacito. I heard it when it was still just on Spanish stations and had not crossed over yet. I told my kids this song is going to blow up bigly. And it did. I listen mostly to Underground Garage on Sirius. Also like Santana’s Oye Como Va. I was deep into early hip hop while it was happening, before money changed everything. I stay in touch with Coke La Rock, Busy Bee and Grandmaster Caz. My book was heavily influenced by Bambaataa, which I now regret, because I missed out on giving credit to Benji and the Ghetto Brothers. They set the stage for the culture to emerge and Bam never mentioned him to me. So I got the origins a bit twisted.
JD: When you started at High times you made the decision to focus exclusively on cannabis and leave other “harder” drugs out of the publication. Why was that? What happened to High times by the way?
SH: I understood High Times had lost their way promoting cocaine and other white powders and needed to get back to the original hippie spirit. Coke and heroin were ruining too many lives. I was on the threshold of something really big and was running numerous events that were gaining steam and planning to mount a case to the Supreme Court for religious rights for cannabis users and end the war. It was a masterful plan well on its way to success, when I got kneecapped and disappeared. Without my vision, High Times quickly became a ghost of its former self. No more politics or culture, just mindless pot promotion. The company is a joke today.
JD: You mention stonks and cryptocurrencies. What do you think of what’s happened with Game stop (stonk)? What are your thoughts about the Robinhood fiasco?
SH: Gamestonk was the best thing to happen during the pandemic and it brought me closer to my son as we both invested in GME independently of each other. When my kid turned 18 a few years ago, I told him to get a bank account and sign up with Robinhood and start investing. When Robinhood cut buys and GME crashed the first time, I bailed out. When I told my son, and he said, “Dad, buy the dip.” You can’t imagine how happy I was to hear him say that. I exited GME yesterday. My average buy-in was around 55, and my sell was $240. I made a lot of bananas. I wish we’d had fractional shares and free trading when I was growing up. Take advantage.
JD: You made an appearance in the show “Weeds” can we expect any other cameos from you in the future?
SH: Quite the contrary, I don’t do any promo or advertising and only do interviews via email. My last cameo was appearing in Fab Five Freddy’s cannabis doc, Grass is Greener.
JD: This will appear in the 420 edition. Do you have a good 420 story you can share?
SH: When I discovered the true history of the code, I published an essay titled “Stoner Smart or Stoner Stupid.” It will be re-released with my album. It’s my best 420 story and you can find it online.
Steven Hager is releasing an album of cannabis spirituals titled Green Easter with his band, The Seeds of Doubt, on the eve of 4/20. It’s a collection of songs written over the last three decades, many of which are based on traditional folk songs. As he put it, “Real spirituality moves through music and creativity, not through gold, armies or real estate holdings.”