The owner of cult marijuana magazine, High Times, is expanding into a retail presence with the purchase of Harvest Health & Recreation Californian dispensary business as part of a diversification away from a difficult and changeable publishing market.

The deal, reported by the Financial Times, values 13 dispensaries in the Cannabis-friendly state of California at $80 million, as part of a mostly stock and part cash transaction where Harvest will become an investor in Hightimes Holdings.

For High Times, the idea of extending its branding onto stores has formed part of a long-term strategy. In 2016, then-COO Larry Linietsky told the New York Times how the brand was looking to appeal to everybody: “we are appealing to everyone who likes cannabis, or is at least curious about it, both recreationally and for medicinal use. That could be your boss, your neighbor or even your grandmother.”

Fast-forward four years, and a greater cultural acceptane meets a strange moment of not very much to do.

“Stoner culture today isn’t necessarily a counterculture anymore. Hightimes is mainstream; we will literally be next to a Chanel store,” Levin told Bloomberg in an interview.

The retail sites will become High Times branded, making the company “one of the largest branded cannabis retailers in California overnight."

Despite stay at home orders that have limited the activity of other industries, California has designated marijuana an essential product at a time when demand for the substance in its various forms has rocketed as a result of lockdown orders that have left a lot of people extremely bored.

According to the research firm Headset, which specialises in the expanding cannabis industry, sales in California until mid-March had seen a 159% increase versus the year before.

Similar to Canada, where the substance is legal nationally – albeit fraught with provincial differences – the lockdown has not been an easy victory for the fledgling industry, as the recent OrganiGram earnings showed.

Sourced from the Financial Times, The New York Times, Bloomberg, WARC