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The new CEO of High Times most definitely inhales

Posted June 6

"This is a dream, dude."

Adam Levin, the lead investor of a group that just bought a majority stake in High Times, is talking about his plans for the biggest name in marijuana media.

Levin is the founder of the Los Angeles investment firm Oreva Capital and, as of last week, chief executive of High Times Holding Company, or HTHC. (Get it? If you don't, then you've never read High Times.)

For now, the company includes the magazine, which is known for its Playboy-style centerfolds of marijuana plants and reaches 236,000 print readers a month, plus the website and a series of industry conventions called the Cannabis Cup.

But Levin and his 19 co-investors -- including marijuana farmer Damian Marley, son of Bob -- have bigger plans for the brand as the industry it covers increasingly goes mainstream.

Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational pot, 29 allow it for medical purposes, and the overall U.S. market could grow to $21 billion in sales by 2020. But marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government, which equates it with heroin.

CNNMoney talked with Levin about his plans for High Times. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

CNNMoney: How much did you pay for High Times?

Levin: We paid over $42 million for a controlling interest. Oreva has the biggest piece.

Why did you buy it?

Cannabis is just growing. There aren't too many industries where you can buy the pre-eminent brand in the industry, when it's the fastest growing industry in the country. This was an amazing opportunity.

Related: High price for High Times as pot goes mainstream

You said you're going to expand the brand into a "modern media enterprise." What does that mean?

We want to become much more of a lifestyle brand, but, much more than that, we want to become a platform for cannabis entrepreneurs.

[He said he plans to expand video streaming and launch a concert series and is expanding the Cannabis Cup, which serves as a showcase for entrepreneurs, from seven annual events to 11 or 12.]

Do you have prior experience investing in marijuana businesses?

No, I'm really a media investor.

Related: 10 things to know about legal pot

How is federal prohibition limiting your business?

The magazine has been an advocate of the legalization of marijuana for the last 40 years. Cannabis is a large industry today. In its entirety, I don't think even [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions is saying, "Hey, let's shut it down today." We'll stay on message and continue to advocate for our consumers.

Can I buy marijuana through your magazine?

No.

[He said that one of the advantages of his company is that it's about marijuana, but it doesn't touch marijuana, so it won't run afoul of any laws.]

Do you smoke marijuana?

Yes, and I've grown up smoking it, and I love it. Listen, I'm a flower guy.

Why are you moving the High Times headquarters from New York City to Los Angeles?

Because it's closer to my house.

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