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High Times & High Crimes: The Spectacular Fall of High Times Amidst Financial Ruin and Legal Battles

Updated: Apr 6

High Times
Photo: Sarah Stierch

High Times, a name synonymous with cannabis culture for decades, has recently been ensnared in a complex web of legal and financial turmoil. This iconic brand's journey into chaos is a tale of ambition clouded by mismanagement, leading to the abrupt closure of three of its dispensaries in California. The shutdown of stores in Blythe, San Bernardino, and Coalinga marks a significant downturn for the company, leaving employees in the lurch and shedding light on a series of misguided decisions and legal entanglements.

In the rapidly evolving world of the cannabis industry, the legal and ethical standards businesses must adhere to are under intense scrutiny. High Times Holding Co., once a beacon for cannabis culture, finds itself entangled in a web of legal and financial controversies that cast a long shadow over its legacy and the industry at large. At the heart of High Times' turmoil lies a series of actions and decisions that raise pressing questions about business ethics and regulatory compliance in the burgeoning cannabis market.

In March 2023, High Times made headlines for abruptly closing three of its California dispensaries, leaving employees stranded without severance and some without back wages. The closure of dispensaries in Blythe, San Bernardino, and Coalinga was not just a business decision but a fallout from deeper financial mismanagement issues, including unpaid taxes, rent, and employee health insurance premiums. This move not only left workers in a precarious situation but also highlighted a glaring disregard for legal obligations and employee welfare.

Former employees, bound by nondisclosure agreements yet choosing to speak out, revealed that the company's leadership failed to provide the mandated 60-day notice as per California's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. This act of oversight or neglect speaks volumes about the company's approach to legal compliance and its respect for employees' rights.

The financial disarray extends beyond employee-related liabilities. High Times has amassed significant debts, including over $100,000 in tax liens against one store and a judgment lien from a construction company. These financial troubles are symptomatic of a larger issue of fiscal irresponsibility that has plagued the company since its ambitious expansion during the cannabis industry's "green rush."

Do You Think High Times Can Recover From Its Current Financial and Legal Troubles?

  • Yes, with the right management and strategy

  • No, the damage is too extensive for a comeback.

  • No, they have a reputation for dishonesty

  • No, I didn't realize they were still around

Perhaps most damning are the allegations of securities fraud against executive chairman Adam Levin by the SEC. The charges, involving a scheme to conceal paid promotions of securities offerings, not only raise legal red flags but also ethical concerns about transparency and honesty in investor relations. High Times' settlement with the SEC, although not an admission of guilt, resulted in a substantial fine and further tarnished the company's reputation. according to sources many have not yet received their money back from the IPO scandal.

This series of missteps and legal entanglements serves as a cautionary tale for the cannabis industry. It underscores the importance of ethical business practices, legal compliance, and the consequences of failing to uphold these standards. The challenges faced by High Times highlight the need for a robust ethical framework and stringent regulatory oversight to ensure the sustainable growth of the cannabis industry.

As the cannabis market continues to mature, the saga of High Times serves as a reminder of the "high stakes" involved in navigating the legal and ethical complexities of this dynamic industry. It prompts a broader conversation about the imperative for businesses to act responsibly, not just for their survival but for the health of the industry and the communities they serve.


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