For Steve DeAngelo cannabis is more than medicine — it’s a lifestyle.
Widely acknowledged as the ‘father of the cannabis industry’, DeAngelo is both cannabis activist and entrepreneur. He’s the co-founder of Harborside, one of the first of six companies in the United States to be awarded a medical marijuana licence. The 13-year-old Harborside is one of the largest medical cannabis dispensaries in California. It became a publicly traded company in June 2019.
DeAngelo also co-founded Steep Hill Laboratory, the first dedicated cannabis lab; the Arc View Group, the first cannabis investment firm, and the National Cannabis Industry Association, the industry’s first trade association.
‘I fell in love with cannabis at a very young age’— Steve DeAngelo
This is a long way from DeAngelo’s first encounter with cannabis, which the author and public speaker told CanEx Jamaica occurred while he was on the verge of adolescence.
“I fell in love with cannabis at a very young age. It was just a very memorable and deep connection to the plant. I knew something remarkable had happened to me and I knew cannabis would continue to be part of my life. I [also] knew that I didn’t want to do anything illegal… I didn’t want to be a criminal,” DeAngelo added.
That desire to ensure that every activity in which he participated would withstand any test of integrity, led DeAngelo on a decades-long fight to make cannabis available to all. Raised in the 1960s and 1970s by activist parents, DeAngelo remembers growing up in Washington D.C. and seeing his parents being involved in landmark civil rights events such as the 1963 March on Washington.
‘I thought we were going to get it done in two or three years, it just took a lot longer.’— Steve DeAngelo
He channelled that activist heritage and his own burgeoning passion into lobbying for a legal cannabis industry, making numerous television appearances, and writing on the effects and benefits of cannabis. His efforts hit a snag in 1998 when the US Congress blocked moves to legalise cannabis in the American capital.Since then, the medicinal cannabis industry has opened up; medical cannabis use is now legal in 33 states in the US, while the industry is also opening up in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“That change was a result of decades and decades of work by people like me. I thought we were going to get it done in two or three years, it just took a lot longer than I thought,” DeAngelo said.
“We know that cannabis provides wellness effects. We have also just begun to learn what happens to people when we make cannabis more accessible; opium rates, suicide rates, (and) pharmaceutical use drops,” he said.
DeAngelo, who noted that the first cannabis laws were a form of racial prejudice intended to control black people, believes the legal cannabis industry could help heal racial tensions. He also believes that cannabis by-products could help save the environment, as more than 50,000 different products can be made from hemp. The author of The Cannabis Manifesto is scheduled to be one of the speakers at the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo 2019. The two-day event is scheduled for September 26 to 28 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.