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Counter Culture’s Impact on Legal Cannabis

How has the counterculture impacted cannabis legalization? From music festivals to the legends of 420, we give a brief overview on legal cannabis and the counterculture.

Jason SanderJason Sander · Nov. 19, 2021 · 6 min read
Counter Culture’s Impact on Legal Cannabis

How has the counterculture in the United States impacted cannabis legalization? From Grateful Dead shows to the legends of 420, and everything in between, we give a brief overview of legal cannabis and the counterculture.

Legal cannabis has come a long way, even in the last few years. For those of us old enough to remember the 1990s, the legalization of medical cannabis in California was a surprise victory. It took around 20 years for the first state to legalize adult-use cannabis, with Colorado getting the ball rolling. Thanks to voters and ballot organizers, in 2020, we saw several landmark pro-cannabis victories in a few relatively unexpected state wins, including Montana, Mississippi, and South Dakota.

Cannabis Goes Mainstream

Some cannabis lovers who have been consuming the plant for years see legalization as a hindrance, the plant now going mainstream after years of seeing ingesting it as sticking it to the man. We won’t comment on whether that’s true, but we do know this for certain: legalizing cannabis, overall, has led to much better access to the plant medicine for those who need it.

Although there is still much work to do, fewer arrests are made, fewer lives are ruined, and fewer cannabis consumers are put in cages. All of the above is not possible without the advancements of legalization, and while it’s not perfect, it’s better than the alternative of continued prohibition.

Let the record reflect that HashDash supports any and all legalization. The DEA, Federal Government, and other agencies have led a crusade against cannabis for nearly a century, and it’s beyond past due for this nonsense to finally come to an end.

The Origins of 420

We couldn’t write an article about cannabis and counter-culture without mentioning the origins of 420 and the Waldos. Our article on the subject goes into much deeper detail, so be sure to check that out if you’re curious. But the origin story goes, that the legend of 420 started in a high school, in where else, California.


Students would supposedly consume cannabis at the same time every day, 4:20 PM, which was the perfect time since there were no teachers around and no parents who were still at work at the time. 420 was what the students said to each other to refer to cannabis consumption, and the rest is history.

Music Festivals

Another aspect of the counterculture that had an impact on cannabis legalization is music festivals. While the idea of a music festival has certainly evolved over the years, with genres like EDM becoming perhaps the most popular, the original music festival featured mostly rock bands, right up until circa 2000. Perhaps the most popular American band to play at said music festivals was the Grateful Dead.

According to concert-goers, parking lots of Grateful Dead shows are almost as fun as the concert. The Band’s most popular member, lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, died in August of 1995. However, the Dead still plays shows many years after that. Band members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart are in and out of the band in its various lineups. One of the most recent inclinations of the bands features John Mayer on guitar.

The Dead kept the parking lot experience alive many years after Jerry’s death, but the experience isn’t quite what it once was. In the early days, like the 1960s and 70s, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were supposedly responsible for popularizing the band as well as making 420 a household phrase.

High Times

After the hippie generation in the 1960s, cannabis needed a champion. For decades, High Times was that champion, positioning itself as the leader in all things cannabis media starting way back in 1974. From centerfold spreads of delightful buds and plants to interviews with celebrity consumers, High Times was the voice of the cannabis counter culture.

Arguments can be made to support the idea that without High Times, there would not be legalization in California, and the timeline of events leading to the legalization of adult use in Colorado would not be possible.

Circa 2010, High Times was eyeing a legal cannabis takeover, thanks in large part to its widely popular Cannabis Cup events that attracted many business sponsors. In 2016, however, Chairman Michael Kennedy passed away. Kennedy was arguably the glue that held High Times together for all those years, and without him, the cannabis media giant quickly unraveled.

The private equity firm Oreva Capital acquired High Times a year after Kenndy’s death, with a large investment from the reggae musician Damian Marley and others. The plans were to expand the High Times empire by offering even more live events, opening their dispensaries that carried the iconic name, and even offering delivery services.

Many of these business plans never panned out, and there have been lawsuits, layoffs, and resignations since. Many people see the desire for a public offering of the High Times brand as part of the corporatization of cannabis. Some legal cannabis has become corporate, and there exists no bigger indication of this than the apparent fall from grace of High Times.

Will Cannabis Go Corporate?

We appreciate everything High Times has done for the legal cannabis industry, and it’s never a good thing when people are laid off. We don’t know the whole story, so we will just be reporting the facts here. From our end, we see programs like social equity business licenses that are finally being implemented as a positive thing.

It is time for consumers like us to pick up the torch that High Times dropped. As HashDash platform users, we’re committed to bringing you the facts, evidence, and science behind all things cannabis. If we say we’re supporting transparency in others, that transparency starts with us. The way we see it, the cannabis industry is big enough for all of us, and the near 250k jobs, and counting, that legal cannabis has helped create, is evidence for that.

HashDash - Connecting the Cannabis Community

We hope you found value in our content about counter culture’s impact on legal cannabis. Did you learn something, or have anything to add? Let us know - @hashdash on all platforms, except for Instagram, where we are @hashdashdotcom.

Check back to our blog often, because we post fresh content every week!

HashDash is building a vast knowledge database of helpful articles and ways to enhance the cannabis consumption experience. We have over 100 published blog articles and will offer six value-packed guides in 2022, titled HashDash’s Guides for the Canna-Curious.

Don’t forget to sign up for HashDash to discover your cannabis matches.

Thanks for reading! Please consume responsibly. Treat this incredible plant, and the culture surrounding it, with the respect it deserves.

Jason Sander
Jason SanderJason is a versatile writer and marketer with over ten combined years of experience working with clients in various industries. He couples this expertise with six years of writing for the cannabis sector as well as a passion for the business side, and the science behind the plant medicine.
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