New York, NY – Anyone who works in the cannabis industry from a trimmigrant to a CEO of a cannabis company, has weed warrior Rick Cusick to thank. He has helped innumerable people along their cannabis career paths. Now it is time for the industry that he helped to create and legitimize, to help him in return.
I was a teenager living in Jamaica when I sent an email to the High Times magazine general mailbox, asking if I could submit some photographs. Rick, the former associate publisher, responded. What began as a correspondence, blossomed into a life long mentor/mentee relationship. As he reminded me yesterday, in typical scathing Rick form, “Brittany, I have followed the arc of your career. In the beginning, you couldn’t write a sentence (never mind the fact that I was a photographer). Now you can actually write.” I cannot take the credit for what Rick has taught me. He is the reason why I still own a dog-eared copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.
Years later I would accompany him when he was on trial in Boston, for smoking a joint during the Boston Freedom Rally. His attorney, the legendary Harvard fellow, Charles Nesson, attempted jury nullification. Unfortunately, the jurors did not get the point. The young, Boston ADA, Jack Zanini, was flustered by the majesty of his opponent, whom the judge was thrilled to have in his courtroom. In the end, Rick and his co-conspirator attorney Keith Stroup, the founder of NORML, were both found guilty, most likely because –of course, they were smoking a joint and they owned it. After all, that was the whole point of the rally– the jury was presented with the defendants’ leftover, stubbed out grimy roach in an evidence bag. Some jurors could barely suppress their smirks. After they were both found guilty, the judge let them go with time served for the couple hours they were held in the pen after they were pinched.
After the case was dismissed everyone involved, including the ADA and the judge, gathered for a group photo. Looking at the vintage photo nowadays, you cannot tell the stoners from the law. That is because In Nesson and Stroup’s case (and quite possibly the Abbie Hoffmanesqe judge with the Jewfro) the stoners were the law, decades prior to the “shedding the stigma” narrative.
The above recollection is just one story, out of hundreds, if not thousands, the cannabis industry has to tell about Reefer Dad, Activist, Writer and Friend, Rick Cusick. He is the type of guy that had a crush on Carl Sagan’s widow but was gentlemanly about it and who burned a spliff with everyone from Willie Nelson to Snoop Dogg, in what was once the Shangri-La offices of the Michael Kennedy law firm which harbored High Times Magazine in its heydey. The office was on 419 Park Avenue, which everyone said that they wished was 420. Parallel to Park Ave’s Mad Men, Cusick and his crew were the original Med Men. Rick staunchly believes cannabis is medicine and is everyone’s fundamental right to use.
Rick raised his equally brilliant daughter Dylan, as a single dad while working at High Times. He went from smoking pot several times a day to not at all, for several years. Formidable Cusick quit cold turkey to demonstrate to Dylan that marijuana is not addictive and he could take it or leave it. Once Dylan concluded as a young adult that she didn’t mind if her dad got high, he happily started up again, knowing he was never even for one moment a bad influence on his child. A child, whom he worships and adores so much, he constructed her Comic-Con costume, complete with resplendent horns, out of paper mache.
These days, Cusick is the Co-Founder of Whoopi & Maya and he has cirrhosis of the liver, even though he hasn’t had a drop to drink in over 30 years. He has probably consumed as much cannabis as Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong combined, if not more so, and yet it is alcohol ironically that became his deadliest, albeit long-forgotten foe.
This Sunday, hear the friendly, prideful roar of a cannabis lion like no other. Spend an afternoon with one of the Godfathers of the cannabis movement, at a friendly fundraiser, on Long Island. The event will be streaming on Facebook Live at 2pm EST.
Regardless of what Jeff Sessions thinks, good people do smoke marijuana. Anyone who is consuming cannabis legally today has Rick Cusick in part to thank.