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Nov. 17, 1978 - High Times Founder Tom Forcade Dies By Suicide

This Day in Cannabis History:

As the longtime head of the Underground Press Syndicate, one of the leaders of the Yippie & Zippie activist movements, a notorious cannabis smuggler, and the founder of High Times magazine, Thomas King Forcade was an under-appreciated icon of American counterculture. By all accounts, he was also a troubled genius—suffering from paranoia and manic depression for most of his adult life. It was 43 years ago today that those inner demons finally got the best of him.

Forcade's best friend and longtime smuggling partner was a man named Jack Coombs. The pair frequently flew planeloads of weed into the US from Mexico and Columbia. In the spring of 1978, one of those smuggling runs took a tragic turn: while flying in a load of Colombian in a twin-engine cargo plane, Coombs' plane apparently came in too low, hit some trees, and exploded. Forcade, who was flying beside him in a smaller plane to guide him in, watched his friend die in a fiery wreck and reportedly blamed himself for his friend's death. That guilt, combined with increased scrutiny from the law, the loss of High Times' primary distribution deal, and an allegedly combative relationship with his wife Gabrielle, apparently sent Forcade into a downward spiral.

Months later, on Thursday, November 16, Tom was alone in the bedroom of his Greenwich Village apartment—attempting to sleep after having reportedly taken some quaaludes. After hearing a loud bang, his wife Gabrielle—who was in the next room—rushed in to find that Tom had shot himself in the temple with his pearl-handled .22 pistol. He was taken to nearby St. Vincent's Hospital, where he was pronounced brain dead. He died the following evening at 7:30 pm on Friday, November 17, 1978. He was just 33 years old.

Soon after, a private memorial service was held at the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center in New York (the highest place in the world at the time). There, a small group of those closest to him—including Gabrielle, Forcade's lawyer Michael Kennedy, High Times editor Craig Copetas, and NORML founder Keith Stroup—shared a joint containing a portion of Forcade's ashes in it as a tribute to their departed friend.


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