CANNABIS CULTURE – For four determined decades, Steve DeAngelo has been at the forefront of the cannabis movement. During his years of championing for legal weed, “The Father of the Legal Cannabis Industry” played a major role in the passing of Prop 64 (California’s adult-use law) and Initiative 59 (Washington D.C.’s medical law.)
A Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, DeAngelo co-founded SteepHill Laboratory, The ArcView Group and The Last Prisoner Project. The national leader even helped to edit/publish late cannabis activist Jack Herer’s landmark book The Emperor Wears No Clothes.
The 62-year-old has actively spread awareness by producing groundbreaking documentaries like CBD Nation (2020), Culture Interrupted on Cannabis (2020) and Legalize It (2014). One of DeAngelo’s most notable advocacy efforts was a four-year legal campaign against the U.S. Department of Justice to prevent the closure of his California-based dispensary, Harborside.
Cannabis Culture – What inspired you to become a cannabis activist/influencer?
DeAngelo: I fell in love with the plant as a young teenager and realized I would never give it up, but I didn’t want to spend my life hunted as a criminal. Legalizing cannabis was an imperative for my own happiness and so I made it my mission. Then, as I educated myself and learned more about how and why cannabis had been made illegal, I became angrier with each fact I uncovered. That anger at being lied to about cannabis, and being lied to about all the misery that has flowed from those lies, is still with me today; it will stay with me until the last cannabis prisoner comes home to their family.
CC: How are influential figures in the industry (such as yourself) capitalizing on cannabis amid COVID-19?
DeAngelo: I haven’t seen any serious or sustained efforts to profit from COVID-19 in the cannabis industry, even though good science exists for the proposition that cannabis can prevent and mitigate COVID-19. The industry has also seen an upside from being declared essential in most places; most of our businesses have remained open and even seen increased sales. The cannabis businesses that remained open for the most part took appropriate precautions to protect staff and clients – like curbside delivery and reduced indoor capacity – so I would say it is more a case of the industry adapting to COVID-19, rather than capitalizing on it.
CC: Do you think the Coronavirus pandemic has sparked new opportunities for budding “cannapreneurs”?
DeAngelo: I think that COVID has tended to depress opportunities for new cannapreneurs; just because it is so challenging to move around, so challenging to have meetings, so challenging to develop new relationships. [However], the Biden election win is beginning to push the trend in a more positive direction.
CC: Sales of cannabis in the U.S have either remained fairly steady or surged since the COVID-19 outbreak — why do you think this is?
DeAngelo: We’ve seen a bit of surge in California. The basic reason is the homeostatic effect of cannabis — the way it returns us to our place of natural balance. Cannabis reduces stress and rebalances us, so when we are feeling increased stress, we tend to consume more cannabis. Also, more people are working from home for longer periods of time, so they have more opportunity to consume cannabis and feed this increased desire.
CC: What do you consider to be the main obstacle for cannabis reform in the U.S.?
DeAngelo: The main obstacles to cannabis reform in the United States will be die-hard Prohibitionist Republicans in the Senate and their right-wing Democratic allies — possibly with assistance from the Biden administration. Provided the House stays Democratic, I believe we have mostly won the debate there. We can see we have certainly won the debate in the states from the clean sweep of all five cannabis voter initiatives that were on both red and blue state ballots; from New Jersey to Mississippi. The people have spoken… we now just need to push very hard to bring the Senate and President elect into compliance with our clearly expressed wishes.
CC: Do you think social media is beneficial or potentially damaging in regards to swaying people’s opinions on the plant?
DeAngelo: From my perspective, our side has been much more effective on social media than the Prohibitionists have been. In fact, I think that it has been one of our most powerful tools and I have seen very little (if any) downside to the movement from our social media presence. Of course, you will always have people in any population, including ours, who post stupid or inappropriate items, but that is endemic to social media and not specific to cannabis.
CC: What advice would you give to a budding cannabis activist/influencer who wants to become a well-known name in the ever-evolving space?
DeAngelo: Be of service to the cannabis community, and the community will elevate and support you. Find something we need that nobody else is giving us and bring it. Be real. Be yourself. Be relentless. Never doubt you are on the winning side of history; never forget it will take all of us to get there.
CC: Which social networking platform do you consider to be the most powerful for targeting followers in your niche and why?
DeAngelo: IG is probably strongest for reach right now, but I see better engagement on LinkedIn.