Marijuana is a huge business, estimated at $2.7 billion in 2014. Although accurate numbers aren’t yet available for 2015, preliminary estimates show the industry is trending upwards.
With close to a dozen states expected to legalize the cannabis plant for either medicinal or recreational usage in 2016, it’s important to keep up on changes in the marijuana industry.
Subscribing to ana publications is a great way to keep updated, but, since the market’s flooded with so much competition, it can be difficult to know which publications are best.
Being a long-time pothead who’s met and worked with just about every marijuana publication on the planet, I have an inside track on how these publications work. Here are the top 5 (and, in my opinion, the only) cannabis magazines, newspapers, and online media brands to stay updated on the industry and culture of marijuana.
1. High Times
$30/One Year, $55/Two Years, $80/Three Years
High Times magazine was launched in 1974 by Tom Forcade as the oldest (and widely considered the most influential and important) marijuana magazine in existence. Parent company Trans-High Corporation has transformed the magazine into a multimedia brand, with the full magazine archive available online to subscribers.
Throughout the course of its 42-year history, High Times has covered every aspect of counterculture (including my own story as a bank whistleblower in the January 2016 issue), but the magazine is most well-known for featuring hi-rez images of cannabis plants, buds, and grow ops.
Editor Dan Skye (the pen name of famed cannabis photographer Malcom MacKinnon) doesn’t just publish High Times from an ivory tower like the rest of the cannabis publications. He’s traveled the world, pioneering cannabis regulations and advancing the science of marijuana for decades.
Most of the High Times staff uses nom de plumes, as they were prominent members of the underground marijuana movement. These people didn’t just support the marijuana industry since the 1970’s, they were the marijuana industry before legalization attracted all the green rushers.
The High Times Cannabis Cup is the world’s premiere marijuana convention, featuring artists, musicians, and products related to the cannabis industry. The Cup is held throughout the year in a variety of pot-friendly locations, such as Amsterdam, Jamaica, and California.
Although the localized nature of cannabis conferences allowed various players to push their way into the business, there’s still no cannabis convention that can match the spectacle of the Cannabis Cup, especially the annual 4/20 cup in Denver.
High Times is essential reading for anyone interested in counterculture and the history of cannabis. Although other publications may rush out more detailed information moving forward, the deep, 42-year archive of High Times, including exclusive work by Hunter S Thompson, Truman Capote, and myself, is worth its weight in gold.
Check out How to Attend and Prepare for the Cannabis Cup from my “How to Attend Major Events” series.
2. Marijuana Business Daily
Free Subscription, eBooks Start at $50
Whereas High Times focuses on counterculture, Marijuana Business Daily is a daily online trade publication focused solely on the business, science, and legal issues facing the cannabis industry.
Instead of catering to the average consumer, MJBizDaily’s CEO Cassandra Farrington and Editor Chris Walsh focus on providing investors with the necessary statistics, graphs, and important information to invest in either the medical or recreational marijuana business.
MJBizDaily keeps extensive records of news by state and topic, business directories, and business books that essentially serve as educational textbooks on targeted marijuana business subjects.
In addition to daily updates on the website, MJBizDaily offers daily email updates, providing the legal cannabis industry’s leading investment data.
I’ve met Farrington, Walsh, and publisher George Jage in Las Vegas and found them to be highly intelligent in the field of marijuana business.
MJBizDaily isn’t a replacement for High Times – researching both is necessary to fully understand the industry, as every possible product is offered within cannabis and it can be difficult to understand the value-add.
Twice a year (spring on the east coast, and fall on the west), MJBizDaily hosts the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, the leading B2B cannabis conference, featuring extensive seminars, a large exhibit floor, and access to meet with marijuana business professionals from the largest and most respected companies in the industry.
Subscription to MJBizDaily’s email alerts is free, and the books range from $50-$200 and are constantly updated with the most recent, cutting-edge marijuana business information.
Check out more pics from MJBizDaily’s 2016 Marijuana Business Conference and Expo in Las Vegas.
3. Freedom Leaf
Marketed as “The Good News in Marijuana Reform, Freedom Leaf magazine is a monthly digest co-created by marijuana activist Richard Cowan, the former director of NORML who serves as the publication’s Editor in Chief.
Freedom Leaf delivers as promised, serving up monthly stories of everything good happening in cannabis, celebrating successes, and providing timely news, due to the connection with NORML.
I’ve not yet pitched anything to Freedom Leaf, but I’ve met with Cowan on multiple occasions and been offered the opportunity.
The magazine is the Reader’s Digest of cannabis, and proceeds from subscriptions go toward furthering the reform of marijuana laws. Freedom Leaf doesn’t just report on the industry – it’s involved in lobbying, boycotts, and other actions evolving our laws.
Freedom Leaf is the essential digest for activists of any kind, providing a well-rounded view of the history of the industry and encompassing all the sweeping changes and reforms that have been enacted, thanks to the hard work of grassroots activists like Cowan.
Check out NORML.org to learn how you can get involved in marijuana reform.
4. Cannabis Now
$24/Year US ($75 International)
Of all the newcomers to the marijuana media, Cannabis Now is the only one worth paying attention to, representing the new media to High Times old guard (although CN is vehemently opposed to the counterculture).
Editors Ellen Holland and Kristian Richards are experts in online and social media marketing and have worked hard over the last three years to transform that following into a media brand.
Based in Berkeley, CA, Cannabis Now accumulated nearly 4 million Facebook followers by featuring the only hi-rez cannabis photos capable of competing with the work of MacKinnon and High Times. An active and young group based near NorCal’s fabled Emerald Triangle, Cannabis Now is mostly focused on digital media, but does produce a physical magazine sporadically throughout the year.
Current projections for 2016 are to release 6 magazines, which arrive every other month. I’ve contributed to Cannabis Now at various times, though my jail term (and subsequent period working with High Times) put the relationship on ice.
Cannabis Now is desperate to showcase marijuana as a serious industry, eschewing traditional pothead culture and focusing on more mature subjects. If High Times is comparable to Rolling Stone, Vice, and Playboy, Cannabis Now is closer to Cigar Aficionado or Cat Fancy in the seriousness in which it portrays the industry.
Although an annual subscription is cheaper than High Times, you’ll receive less issues per year. The high-gloss paper is much higher quality, though, meaning it lasts longer and makes better wall coverings for those into decorating their walls with magazine pages.
Check out my page on Cannabis Now.
Jason Spatafora is known as the Wolf of Weed Street in the 420 community, and with good cause. The owner and editor in chief of MarijuanaStocks.com is a successful investor of several ganja tech startups. Because the DEA still refuses to recognize the medical uses of marijuana as legitimate, it remains a Schedule I drug. This makes investing in it risky, but MarijuanaStocks.com has up-to-date, often real-time information about every marijuana and auxiliary business on the planet.
By keeping up with this site, you’ll understand everything you need to know about the business behind the cannabis industry. It’s more than just a black market, it’s an industry in which states are exercising their rights over the Federal government (very carefully), and Spatafora and his crack team of contributors, editors, and researchers are only dealing with information, so they exercise their first amendment rights with glee, pith, sarcasm, but most of all, factual and transparent information.,
Having hung out with Spatafora in Vegas and interviewing him several times (hell, I’ve even contributed to the site myself), I can tell you MarijuanaStocks.com consistently outpaces competitors like Jim Cramer’s The Street publication (which I also wrote for about marijuana).
Beyond these five publications, there’s a plethora of marijuana magazines, including THC Magazine, Dope, and more. Each of these magazines is published by a smaller, localized mom and pop shop that’s seeking a place in between these titans of industry.
With the publications above, however, there’s really no need for any of the others, as every aspect of the cannabis industry is fully covered in great detail.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work appears in High Times, Huffington Post, Fast Company, Main Street, Quicken’s Small Business Resource, MarijuanaStocks.com, and Hardcore Droid.