By Christopher Mennillo
I had an interesting childhood to say the least. I was born and raised in Quebec, a multi-racial, anglophone kid with a dad who owns and operates HighTimes (the store not the magazine but we’ll get to that), life was different. Though my childhood was interesting, it doesn’t hold a candle to my father’s. His was outright rough.
Rough how? Let’s just say my grandfather wasn’t the gentlest man in the world. In his defense, he is an old school Italian farmer, who had survived a war and was raised in a town with a population less than 100.
My Dad used to tell me stories about how my Nonno would come home every day after work and immediately remove his belt and beat all 3 of his sons. Screaming shit like, “this is for all the things you probably did.”
He was a simple man, hardworking, frugal but also, relentless. The kind of man who walked to work in snowstorms to arrive before even the boss. A man who today at 85 years old, still works in landscaping and snow removal. No, not as a truck driver or anything leisurely like that. He is the guy with a shovel. When my dad was growing up, anytime he asked his dad for money, my grandfather would beat him and say shit like “Go and make your own money!”
So, he did just that...
Johnny had several jobs in fact. His first encounter with work was when he decided to work for the Gazette Star delivering newspapers. Being the go-getter that he was, he signed up for several routes. Imagine a 12-year-old wobbling down the street with several bags overflowing with newspapers. Eventually, someone took notice, and he became the first kid to get a red wagon for his paper routes. From here Johnny tried a lot of things, pretty much having success in everything he did thanks to his work ethic and stubbornness. His greatest feat?
All good things come to an end, and 30 years after my father had started using the name HighTimes, we received a Cease and Desist instructing us to immediately stop using the name. Oh, and they also attached a personal suit in the amount of 1M per operator/ location…. We had 7 locations then….
Convincing my extremely stubborn father that we did not own the TM was very difficult. The way he saw it, he had been using the name for 30 years and had every right to
the name. After many testy discussions, most of which included my name and the word “idiot”, my partner Brian and I finally convinced him we needed a new Brand.
We went straight to work, collaborating with branding specialists, designers and marketers. Johnny, eager to save a dollar and prove our insolence in one fell swoop, also got to work trying to think of names. We instructed him to save his time and leave it to the pros, it was after all a herculean task. In traditional Johnny fashion, he completely ignored us. Luckily, he did, after weeks of work, we had jack shit and like a genie in a bottle, he appeared from the smoke and whispered PROHIBITION.
It was perfect, it was us. It reflected the state of the industry, the negative connotations to cannabis and of course, drew parallels to the past with the era of PROHIBITION. With our new name in hand, we settled with HighTimes magazine.
We managed to make it out of the lawsuit (just barely), but we emerged from the experience like a phoenix from the ashes.
PROHIBITION was born.