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420 Recs: Jon Cappetta, Top Dog at High Times

The VP of Content at the world's most infamous cannabis publication obviously has some strong opinions about his pot preferences. Here, Cappetta weighs in on daytime strains, legit medical products, and his favorite High Times covers from the past.

Cash Only’s 420 Recs is an ongoing series where interesting folks offer recommendations for all things 420 — what strains they like, what weed products are blowing their minds, and what they like to do once stoned.

Jon Cappetta knows weed. As the VP of Content at High Times, the writer, editor, and general finesser has been bestowed with the difficult task of shepherding the world’s most famous cannabis publication into the future — at a time when print and legacy media could use a breath of fresh smoke. To do this successfully, one must be a pot pro… and Jon is an undeniable endo expert. 

Since grabbing the reins at High Times, Cappetta has injected some new blood into the pub. There’s a new Editor-in-Chief, Ellen Holland, a new digital editor, Cody Lee, new columns like “Weirdos,” which offers writers the platform to go full rant mode about cannabis, and recommendation series like Jon’s Stone Cold Cop List. The print edition of the mag now features dual front-and-back covers, too, with the frontside featuring the iconic nug porn High Times is known for, and the backside sporting memorable artist collaborations. 

On top of his managerial role, Jon still somehow has the bandwidth to pen features, op-eds, and the aforementioned cop list. Recent gems include his dive into the partnership among Burb, Green Label, and Coffee & Kush — aka the “Avengers” of cannabis — and his screed about the fallacy of high THC percentages connoting superior weed. The latter is a good intro to his writing with its mix of colloquial language and deeply informed breakdown of the industry’s inner workings. I like to imagine Jon screaming the first draft into his voice memo app prior to cleaning up the essay in GoogleDocs. And before we launch into his Cash Only interview, I want to highlight a particularly excellent analogy he used in the THC op-ed that I can’t shake:

Part of what makes the cannabis high so magical are the terpene navigators that roll in tow with your cannabinoids. The aromatics, if you will. I’ve heard it best described like this: if the cannabinoids in the plant are your engine, the terps are your nav. The problem is, as people have tried to ‘increase the horsepower of their engines’ so to speak, they often lose terp percentages as a byproduct. You wouldn’t let a blind guy drive your Ferrari, right?

For his 420 Recs, Jon drops some memorable marijuana preferences, including his ongoing search for a solid “daytime smoke,” the one medical cannabis brand he’ll go out of his way to recommend, and some thoughts about the best High Times covers from the past and present. Take a big rip before diving into this one. Thanks Jon!

Jon Cappetta, photographed on 4/20/22 by Zach Sokol

How would you describe your relationship with weed these days? Are you a regular consumer? A “pothead”? What’s your daily consumption like?

Jon Cappetta: I like the term connoisseur. That sounds much nicer than “addict,” so we’ll go with that. That’s facetious: I think to some degree we all use substances as therapeutics — we just call things “drugs” to demonize them… but, I LIKE drugs, and I don’t care about the connotation. That said, I’m not ignorant to the fact that it pisses a lot of people off when I say we’re “smoking drugs,” but being labeled a pothead never bothered me. 

What’s your current favorite strain and how do you like to consume it? 

This is a loaded question. I think the only definitive answer I can give you is that I like to smoke joints. I still use the same papers I started rolling with nearly two decades ago, Big Bambus, and a doob will always be my preferred method of consumption. I don’t like having to constantly repack, or relight, things. Now in terms of favorite strains, I’ve been on a hunt the past few months for more of what I call “daytime smoke” — what the market would typically refer to as “sativas,” even though we know that’s fucking dumb. Current favs are probably Zkittlez and Cereal Milk, which I feel dates me.

It’s probably easier and more helpful to the end user to name specific cultivators who I heavily fuck with, so I’ll say anything that comes from Fig Farms, Alien Labs, Cannabiotix, Doja Pak, or 710 Labs is a winner in my book.

Do you have any favorite weed products right now — whether a particular edible, topical, or even paraphernalia? 

I’m really glad to see all the innovation happening in the beverage space, as I’m a soda junkie. So medicated sodas are a neat concept for me, but I have an insane edible tolerance so I don’t really feel those products. I more just try ‘em because I want to eat like medicated mac & cheese, or because it’s the only mac & cheese in my house. I will say the Flower Mill has quickly become my favorite grinder, though. I’ve got three now: one for my bedroom, one for my living room, and one for on-the-go. In terms of topicals, I don’t really have a great need for these fortunately, but for my parents and friends with ailments, pretty much the only brand I’ll recommend is Carter’s Aromatherapy Design from Sac. Hands down the best actual medical products in our space.

As a cannabis writer/editor, I’m sure you’re regularly sent samples or care packages from brands. Do you have any personal policies about writing about a brand that sent you swag? How often does a care package lead to you covering the company?  

I guess my policy is I’ll post anyone on my Instagram story as, like, a thank you for sending me your shit, but I only write about the stuff that I actually really like. To your point, I am blessed with a good percentage of the new products that hit the market, at least in SoCal. A LOT of those products look pretty, but aren’t really that dope. My policy is really that I want people to continue to trust what I write, so I’m not going to risk my reputation promoting something that isn’t super-fire for whatever reason — and sometimes that could be its price-point. 

The 2021 Art Issue of High Times, cover by Talking Terps

Do you have a favorite High Times centerfold weed photo, from the archives or under your leadership?

I have favorite covers for sure, but centerfolds are harder. As much as I love the plant, I AM a culture guy first and foremost. So while I’ve saved dozens of centerfolds from the time I was a kid, the covers are what really speak to me — they’re what I have framed. There’s a cover from ’77 with Andy Warhol leaning on a Coca Cola bottle that is like my absolute favorite shot ever. Both Andy and Coca Cola are two of my favorite things, so for this iconic institution to have not only made this cover, but to be the one carrying the torch all these years later… I still pinch myself about it. 

But I think today, every cover we do attempts to one up the last one. We started doing a dual cover concept last year, where the front retains its iconic bud porn, but the back is more art and culture driven, since not everyone is coming to us for nug shots, right? We’ve done some amazing stuff on the back cover. The August issue, which we’re about to close, has probably the coolest back cover we’ve ever done, and we’re working on this year’s Art Issue, which will have covers by iconic artists NYCHOS and CES, so I’m sure those will be my new favorites next month. Last year’s Art Issue, my first real full-issue project, will also always be a favorite. It’s the cover with Talking Terps on the front and Money Trees on the back — Money Trees is the brand of artist Joey Colombo, and I’m a massive fan of his work, so yeah I’m still pinching myself about the stuff we’re able to put together.

What activity do you like to do after you’ve gotten really stoned?

Does scrolling through DoorDash trying to figure out what I want to eat count? I feel like I lose hours a day doing that, man. It’s not my favorite activity though; it actually annoys the hell out of me. I wish someone would make a “You want this now!” food delivery app — that would be super helpful. To answer your question for real, though, as lame as this is to say out loud… I’m a content consumer. I love to watch movies, TV shows, and listen to music. I’m not super active, but I love a good swim. I paint sometimes. This is feeling more and more like an online dating profile. I promise I’m interesting, but all the interesting things happen inside my house.

Can you recommend something to watch while high?

Everything Everywhere All At Once is my current obsession. I think it’s as close to a perfect movie as you can get, and it’s FILLED with little rabbit holes that stoner types love. I’m always a fan of Guy Ritchie’s work. Aqua Teen Hunger Force is my forever classic animated late night show, I still watch reruns of that and Trailer Park Boys religiously. Also, Adult Swim’s Off the Air is probably the trippiest show in existence. Turn that on when you want to get really weird. It’s exactly the right speed. I’ve been told my tastes often edge toward the more action and violent, so I’m trying to downplay that, but I love any dystopian stories. I’m so bad at recalling specific content I like though — whether it be movies or music — until they’re referenced.

Can you recommend something to listen to while smoking?

I did this thing for Magnetic Mag a few years ago that still holds pretty solid. That Giraffage mix is still a regular shuffle. I’ve been listening to a lot of hyperpop lately because I feel like the world is falling apart and that occupies my sense of existential dread momentarily, but I’m a pop punk kid at heart. I love covers and mash-ups. I’m still cyphing a lot of shit I listened to in high school, which I’m too embarrassed to acknowledge publicly. Probably the closest to that lifeI want to mention are the Captain Cuts mixtapes. Actually, one other less embarrassing mix series I love that I can name drop was made by DJ Troublemaker a few years back, called Pantystep — they’re supposed to be mixes that make women want to dance around in their underwear, but it works on us dudes, too. Trust. Wish he continued making these because they’re perfect.

Can you recommend something to read once stoned? 

OK, yes. I think it depends on what mood you’re in. If you want to get smarter I would recommend reading Ryan Holidays books — Trust Me I’m Lying remains one of the most valuable books I’ve ever read, but more recently his work on stoicism actually feels like it’s helping me live a better life, even though I’m ignoring most of the advice. If you want to be entertained, honestly the most fun books I’ve read recently were Hyena and Hummingbird by Jude Angelini. He’s “Rude Jude” on the radio station Shade 45, and man, he’s one of the funniest people in the world. His outlook is just hilarious, and he’s lived a very, very different life than most — I’ve both cried and almost peed reading his books. If you want a challenge, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is a fucking experience. It’s like a descent into madness, and I’m really turned on by the idea of illustrating insanity. In fact, since I started at High Times, probably the most interesting piece we’ve published, in my opinion, was ‘On Being Lit’ by Theo Karantsalis. That piece is actually what inspired WEIRDOS.

Who’s in your dream blunt rotation?

Tough question — alive or dead?

Alive: Elon, Bezos, and the dude from Virgin [Richard Branson]. I really want to know why these dudes are so desperate to get off the planet. What do they know that we don’t??

Dead: Any combination of the following: Dali, Warhol, Haring, Basquiat, Biggie, ODB, Robin Williams, and George Carlin — just because I feel like getting time with ANY of those guys would be a dream.

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Zach Sokol

Zach Sokol is a writer, editor, and founder of Cash Only. He works at Bullish Studio and is also a co-editor of Sex Magazine. Previously, he was the editor of MERRY JANE, an editor at VICE, and has written extensively for publications like Playboy, Penthouse, i-D, and more. Visit his website www.zachsokol.com