He fought the system for almost half a century and won. Here's the story of one medical marijuana kingpin's battle to legalize weed.
Steve DeAngelo is the CEO of Harborside Health Center, one of California’s leading medical marijuana dispensaries. DeAngelo is quite a big name in the cannabis world; he’s been featured on the Discovery channel’s Weed Wars, and has just written a new book, The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm For Wellness.
In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, DeAngelo is an author, speaker and activist. He has waged a 40-year battle against the government in an attempt to legalize marijuana, and his fascinating life story is as interesting as his career. In this short video, he openly discusses how his love of cannabis was sparked, how it became his life’s work, and how he has been instrumental in fighting the system for over four decades to get medical marijuana available legally.
DeAngelo says his first experience with cannabis was life-changing and ‘spiritual’. He’d smoked a little and was walking through the woods to get home when he noticed things he’d never noticed before: how the sunlight streamed through the trees, how each leaf seemed more detailed, the colors brighter, the birdsong more beautiful than ever. He couldn’t understand why cannabis was illegal, and the fact that by smoking he was breaking the law was a fact that didn’t sit well with Steve. “Legalization was a pre-requisite to my own happiness,” DeAngelo says with feeling. “So I made it my mission.”
He was so committed to this mission that he decided against having any children, and instead embarked upon a journey that would prove difficult and dangerous. In 1974, DeAngelo organized the first Washington DC smoke-in. He talks candidly about how these protests were received by the government- from Jimmy Carter (chilled) through Ronald Reagan (heavily policed). “They were there in riot gear, running around cracking skulls,” he remembers, becoming visibly emotional.
In 1998, DeAngelo organized and funded Initiative 59, which would have legalized medical marijuana dispensaries. Despite winning with 69% of the vote, Congress vetoed the motion. “This disgusted me,” DeAngelo says. The failure of democracy to deliver left him feeling angry and disillusioned, so he moved from DC to California. Eventually DeAngelo’s dream came true, and Harborside Health Center was born. He’s also co-founded various other cannabis companies including Ecolution, Steep Hill Laboratory and The ArcView Group.
But if anyone deserves success, it’s him: “The decades of stigma and disapproval have been difficult,” he says, also speaking about how his fear of prison has prevented him from starting a family. “It’s very difficult when you don’t have the respect of people in society.”
Steve’s book focuses on cannabis use as a medical tool for wellness, offers advice on how to become a better activist, why legalization is so important, and how you can get involved in one of the fastest-growing industries of our time. It can be ordered here.
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