Steve DeAngelo interview – Part 2
In part 1 of our interview with Steve DeAngelo, we spoke about his work establishing medical cannabis with the Harborside cannabis dispensary in Oakland, establishing cannabis testing standards with Steep Hill Laboratory, and the work he’s doing to free prisoners jailed for cannabis with The last Prisoner Project.
In part 2 of our interview with Steve DeAngelo, we talk about his new tourism venture in Jamaica, social media shadowbans, why Joe Biden doesn’t want to federally legalize cannabis, his experiences meeting with the worldwide cannabis tribe, and how we will eventually change the world.
I was very excited for this part of the interview. After all, at Mendocino Experience Cannabis Farm Tours, we’ve been at the forefront of cannabis tourism in Northern California, offering tours of cannabis farms in the Emerald Triangle on day trips from San Francisco since 2018, when adult use cannabis became legal in California, and we moved from wine tourism in California wine country into weed tourism in nearby California weed country. I was looking forward to talking shop with this icon of legal cannabis in California.
You’re beginning to get involved in Cannabis tourism. What kind of tours are you developing?
One of the properties that I’m working on developing is a spring in Little Bay, Jamaica where Bob Marley used to bathe. It’s this beautiful freshwater spring about fifty feet from the edge of the cliffs where Bob used to sing and write songs. All the people remember him going down there and hanging out there. There’s this rock overhang, and there’s this pool that’s like, 8 feet deep and 15 feet wide. It’s this beautiful crystalline pool.
There’s many many different ways that cannabis came to Jamaica. What we do know is that, relative to population, in the world of cannabis Jamaica has punched way way way above its weight, you know? It’s given us our prophets. It’s given us our music. I don’t know how I ever would have made it through the 1980’s without Peter Tosh and Bob Marley.
I had this really incredible experience starting in 2019 when I was able to finally leave California where I’d been pretty much focussed for 12 years building Harborside and getting cannabis legal in California after we passed adult use cannabis here in my home state. I wanted to go around the world, and see what was going on in different parts of the world, and I went to four different continents. I went to about 15 different countries. Jamaica was one of them. Columbia was another one. Morocco was another one. Mexico was another one. Canada was another one.
I went to a bunch of different places, and everywhere I went there was this really easy mesh. Like, I was going to all these conferences where people from all sorts of different places were coming together. I was going from conference to conference to conference to conference, and people were coming together who were from totally different religious backgrounds, racial backgrounds, economic backgrounds, educational backgrounds, who spoke different languages. I was sitting at a table with an ex guerrilla fighter from Columbia and a billionaire, and everybody is meshing and getting along with each other in this really easy way, and we’re engaging with all these different environments we’re in in a really easy way, and , like, this is interesting, and then when I get off of the road I find myself really missing all these folks that I’d met, like really. Like, you know how sometimes you miss a friend of yours, and you feel it in your heart, you know? I was feeling it. So I started thinking about it. Where does this come from that I can feel so attached to these people who are so different in so many different ways so quickly?
I realized that no matter where we are in the world we’ve all had the same experiences with this plant. Those experiences have taught us a set of lessons – common lessons, and out of those life lessons and experiences, like all people do, we’ve developed a value system – in this case a shared value system. So it doesn’t matter where the cannabis tribe is. Wherever we are in the world, we value creativity over conformity. We value freedom over obedience. We value nature over industry. We value kindness over judgment. The only thing we really can’t tolerate is a lack of toleration. We believe that everybody has value and all creatures have a right to exist. It doesn’t matter where we are in the world. That’s who we are, That’s our value system.
The U.N. says that there are 270 million regular cannabis consumers in the world. That’s an under count by a factor of 3 or 4, I’m convinced. Say there’s a billion of us worldwide. We are larger than all but the largest nations on this planet. Every boundary that usually separates human beings – we bridge. We have this powerful shared value system, and now, finally, after a hundred fucking years of being terrorized, and being driven into hiding places, we’re able to come out. We’re able to contact each other. We’re able to do things like go to conferences, come to know each other, recognize each other, and what we’re in the process of doing now is learning how to talk with each other, to reason with each other, so that one day all of us – all billion of us on this planet – can learn how to move as one. And then, that’s the day that we’re going to discover why this plant really came to us, what we’re being called to, and what that mission is, but that day is coming.
What role do you see cannabis tourism playing when it comes to cannabis education & cannabis justice?
The reason I went into that long disposition about one tribe is that I think that there’s something beyond the classical idea of tourism that’s going on, and that’s the idea that us cannabis people now have the opportunity to meet each other, to talk to each other, share our experiences with each other, to recognize each other, and I’ve been through that, and I’ll tell you it’s so fucking powerful, man. When you sit down with someone who’s from a different country, who speaks a different language, who had a different trajectory through life, but feels the same way that you do about weed, and loves to smoke it, and you’re there reasoning with them, there’s a feeling of solidarity and strength there it’s just incredible, and to do that we have to have spaces where we can come together.
That’s where this thing becomes so important – this thing we’re calling cannabis tourism, but it’s really about the cannabis tribe meeting itself so that we can talk to each other, so that we can figure out what it is that we’re up to. It’s a lot bigger than tourism, right? There’s millions of people who are being called by this plant all around the world, and part of it is traveling, learning new things, and meeting new people, but there’s something deeper that’s going on here that we’re being called to. I think that all of us know it, and all of us feel it. We’re searching for it. We don’t really know what that thing is. So, now, finally we have these spaces where we can come together. So, what I’m building in Jamaica is two things. I’m building a retreat center at a spot called Rastafari Indigenous Village in Montego Bay, and we’ll be offering 5 to 7 day retreats featuring a very wide variety of plant medicines. I will also be working to build a museum of ganja that will be associated with the village, and located close to it, but not necessarily part of it.
What do you have to say to the people who still believe the Reefer Madness paradigm that cannabis is a dangerous gateway drug, with no medical use, as it’s currently described in federal law?
In 1961 only 4% of Americans were willing to tell a Gallup pollster that they had tried cannabis. Today that number is up to 50%. That number has changed for two reasons. One, because accurate information has become available about cannabis, and two, because people have had personal experience with the plant.
I would encourage anybody that is on the other side of that 50%, who hasn’t integrated cannabis into their life for whatever reasons to, number one, go online. Spend a couple of hours. Read what all sides have to say about the issue, and then talk to people who have actually used cannabis that you know. Guaranteed, you might not think you know people who’ve used cannabis, but they did. See what they have to say about it – and give it a chance.
I really don’t think there’s many people – there are smaller and smaller numbers of people like that who are left in the world today, and I think really, even people like Joe Biden – Joe Biden knows he’s wrong about this plant. They know that they’re wrong about the plant. It’s just that they’ve spent their whole careers, they’ve built all these relationships on the idea that they have to fight cannabis, and they want to be able to hang out with their buddies when they retire. They don’t want to be the ones who, at the last stages of their career, endorsed cannabis.
There are all these anti-cannabis infrastructures that have been built – not only in government, but even in the private sector. All these big social media organizations – you have shadowbanning on Instagram, Meta, and Google – all these big new companies that have formed fairly recently have made cannabis anathema. How do you see getting rid of the shadowbans – getting those people onboard?
I think that there’s a certain segment of the American corporate world that is not going to change their position towards cannabis until there’s a change in federal law. It looks like Meta, Instagram – a lot of the social media platforms are in that category, unfortunately.
So, laws first, and then they’ll follow suit when the federal law changes?
Yeah, I think that when you are looking at companies like those companies that are already terribly worried that they’re going to have regulations put on them that are going to constrain their range of movement, their #1 priority in life is making sure that they don’t get regulated in that way, and they don’t want to give any ammunition to anybody that could use it to move them in that direction. And it’s just the default – that’s the natural default of the American corporate world. So now you’ve seen some parts – some American corporations like Constellation going up to Canada, and making a quarter of a billion dollar investment into cannabis. So there are parts of the American corporate world that are doing that. Then there are other parts like the banks and like the social media platforms that, for the most part, are not, and I think that those are, by and large, the industries that most fear federal regulation.
I think you’re right about the tribe coming together. You can feel the growth in that. Where do you see it going? When you look 5 years, 10 years, 20 years into the future, what world do you see?
I think that we are in the middle of an ethical shift in human thought and behavior from a world that was based on extractive technologies and raw materials like pumping up petroleum, and cutting down trees, and growing cotton crops with massive amounts of pesticides, using pharmaceutical medicines, distilled alcohol, and moving towards a life affirming economy that uses plants like hemp as raw materials rather than using petroleum or cutting down trees. A medical system that, instead of using isolated chemicals, and feeding them to people one on top of another, uses holistic whole plant medicines like cannabis. I see a world where, instead of industries polluting the air, and creating more carbon load, that we have a cannabis hemp industry that allows us to replace regular concrete with hempcrete that allows us to sequester twenty tons of atmospheric carbon for every hectare of hemp that we produce.
Mother nature was incredibly wise and kind to us when she gifted us this plant which, at one time wakes up our spirits and our souls, and puts us in closer touch with nature, and at the same time gives us the raw materials that we need to build a new economy.
So, that’s where we’re headed. Our spirits and our souls are being awakened on the one hand. This amazing raw material has been put into our hands on the other. We have everything that we need to build the new world that we’ve been dreaming of. We just have to do it now. We just have to come together as a tribe. We have to reason. We have to talk about it. We have to build our businesses. We have to understand how to relate to each other in ways that are different from the structures of the system that we grew up in so that we don’t replicate the trauma and the harm and the oppression that was done to us, but these things are all within reach. It’s just an absolutely magnificent time to be alive as a human being – to see this shift happening. Because it was many hundred years ago that we started shifting in the other direction, and it’s great to see us shifting back now.