By Paul Krassner
It’s a sad irony. When Steven Hager was the editor of High Times magazine, he was contacted by the Waldos — a group of high school students who coined 4:20 as the time to toke at the intermission between their classes each day. He became the first journalist to interview them. However, he chose to commit suicide today, on Mount Tam, at 4:20 a.m. on the 20th of April, sort of like a contemporary marijuana boomerang.
He was a prolific author. His first publication, the Cap’n Crunch Courier, was a free Xerox zine. His books ranged from Hip Hop: The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music, and Graffiti to Killing Kennedy: The Real Story. He was the first editor to publish and promote the work of hemp activist Jack Herer. He published an e-book, Cannabis Cures Cancer?
He founded Pot Illuminati, and learned from Art Kunkin, founder of the Los Angeles Free Press, who received a letter from the “Order of the Phoenix Angel” stating the jurors involved had all been members of the Illuminati, the evidence of which was that all had only had one nipple.
Mr. Hager claimed that “Robert Anton Wilson’s fan club hounds me for saying Wilson’s Illuminati research is bunk, although they admit it’s 99 percent fantasy. In my world, it’s a sin to mix fantasy with conspiracy research. That is called fake news today, and we have too much of it.” He created events from a garage-rock revival band, the Soul Assassins, to the annual Cannabis Cup, where ceremony awards were voted every Thanksgiving in Amsterdam, where he launched the Counterculture Hall of Fame.
But even though High Times became the magazine success story of the ‘90s and his founded Freedom Fighters spearheaded the return of the rallies, re-igniting the sleeping marijuana movement, success only seemed to bring problems for Steven Hager, as he was soon forced to disband the Freedom Fighters and there were constant pressures to shut down the Cannabis Cup as well, or at least remove his supervision.
He moved home to concentrate on events and how to document them for posterity as he felt there was something important in these 420 ceremonies he was manifesting. At the time, he was primarily interested in building up WHEE? As the premiere cannabis event in North America.
Mr. Hager wrote in a suicide note explaining that “I got kicked to the curb and lost access to all the wonderful things I created. The entire cannabis scene is a great turnoff, fueled by a lot of greedy carpetbaggers, but money changes everything. I was first on hip hop and fled that scene when the corporations moved in and kicked the first generation to the curb. My death to the world of cannabis is timely and will deter any of the carpetbaggers from trying to deploy me in any of the marketing schemes.”
His family consists of a divorced wife, and two teenage sons. A memorial will be announced.