Exclusive Interview with "Weed Wars" Star Steve DeAngelo

A portrait of "Weed War's" host Steve Deangelo wearing a bowler hat, two long braids, gauges and a blue suit.

Photo by Robyn Twomey

After 40 years of activism in the reason for legalization, Steve DeAngelo, co-founder of Harborside Health Center in Oakland, California, has launched into a brand new tactic: to construct a mannequin medical marijuana dispensary proving that what’s good for sufferers could be good for enterprise and the encompassing group as nicely. Harborside is the topic of the Discovery Channel’s latest actuality collection “Weed Wars”, which premiered final November. Cannabis Now sat down with DeAngelo in his Harborside workplace to debate how Harborside can change the phrases of the nationwide debate over medical hashish.

CNM: Let’s begin with Harborside’s public relations marketing campaign, which has featured you and this dispensary in newspapers, magazines, and now tv. What sort of picture are you making an attempt to advertise, and what sort of picture are you making an attempt to fight?

SDA: The primary situation we’re involved with so far as picture goes is the presentation of hashish as a device for wellness as an alternative of for intoxication. One picture is said to previous stereotypes which have been used to justify dangerous insurance policies, and the opposite might help make hashish accessible to the bulk. One factor we’re making an attempt to point out is that nearly everybody who makes use of hashish on this nation makes use of it for wellness functions, whether or not it’s for most cancers, or insomnia, or perhaps decreasing stress, or growing creativity or libido – all are problems with general wellness. Even speaking about “recreational” use as a separate exercise is a false dichotomy whenever you take a look at American historical past – within the wrestle for the 40-hour workweek many docs identified that for general well being and wellness, it was essential to take a sure period of time every week for recreation.

CNM: Is it this concentrate on wellness that has elevated Harborside’s curiosity in high-CBD strains of hashish?

SDA: Well, we’re excited about high-CBD strains as a result of the extra we study CBD, the clearer it turns into that it’s an important drugs. We hunt down strains excessive in CBD and low in THC as a result of lots of our sufferers haven’t any prior expertise with hashish, and for them, the psychoactivity is a aspect impact that some simply can’t tolerate.

CNM: About the thought of a ‘high’ being a aspect impact as an alternative of an intoxication: why do you assume so many Americans are accepting of medicines with undesirable unwanted side effects however not of 1 that makes you are feeling good?

SDA: They’re simply uneducated, as a result of they’re nonetheless considering of hashish primarily as an intoxicant. When you take a look at hashish as a wellness product, you see that it offers equal or larger aid than many medicines with an inventory of uncomfortable side effects sounding like they got here straight out of a Stephen King novel. And right here’s an alternate that claims “Warning: may cause increased appetite and libido, along with feelings of euphoria.” Which would you select? But it simply hasn’t been introduced that approach.

CNM: One of the methods through which Harborside is making an attempt to vary notion of the business is by conducting analysis. How is that going?

SDA: Very properly. Soon we’ll be wrapping up our first six month efficacy research for using hashish to interrupt drug habit. Jenny Janichek is authoring a paper on our outcomes which can quickly seem in a peer-reviewed journal. So far it appears to have helped lots of people.

In two weeks we’ll be wrapping up one other efficacy research with the University of the City of London and the Beckley Foundation involving affected person suggestions by way of questionnaires coded to each sort of drugs. We pair these with affected person evaluations to construct a database to cross-reference affected person experiences with knowledge we have already got on cannabanoid content material, to create usable scientific knowledge of which strains are greatest for which signs; then we examine cannabanoid profiles. We don’t want the Fed’s shit-poor Mississippi three % once we’ve obtained the sufferers, we’ve received the hashish, we’ve received the testing, and we’ve acquired the science, we will do an finish run across the federal authorities’s blockade on precise scientific analysis into its results.

CNM: On the topic of hashish’s presentation as a drugs – you’re conscious that the DEA lately denied a petition by sufferers to re-classify hashish underneath federal regulation. Now the door has been opened for a lawsuit to overturn that call. Do you assume, with all that has been discovered about medical hashish in recent times, that a federal decide might rule that the DEA appropriately categorised hashish as a substance with ‘no accepted medical value’?

SDA: Well, they didn’t the final time it got here up, in 1987. In that case, the DEA’s personal decide, Francis L. Young, dominated that hashish ought to be reclassified. He didn’t want all the brand new analysis we now have now: the Chinese have been utilizing it as a drugs since earlier than historical past started, and hashish was first written into the American Pharmacopeia in 1850. So no, I don’t assume there’s any means a federal decide might uphold that call.

CNM: On different authorized issues, Harborside simply acquired hit with an IRS letter which forbids you from utilizing routine bills like lease and utilities as deductions in your tax return, even whereas saying extra uncommon bills like the price of shopping for drugs are deductible. Can you clarify the IRS’s reasoning? It appears quite arbitrary.

SDA: Common sense tells you it’s all backwards. Why forbid us from benefiting from deductions each enterprise in America makes use of yearly, whereas permitting us to deduct the price of drugs which is against the law underneath federal regulation? It’s absurd. But it comes out of the language of a provision within the tax code referred to as part 280E, which prohibits ‘deductions’ used on the return of anybody supposedly trafficking in a managed substance. The entire cause it was handed by Congress within the 1980s is as a result of there was a Colombian drug lord who acquired caught, and the feds tried to grab his belongings. But he efficiently mitigated his case in tax courtroom, by deducting his yachts, his estates, his weapons, and so forth. So Congress responded to the general public outcry by passing 280E; it was by no means meant to be used towards organizations like ours.

CNM: Getting again to the picture of the medical marijuana business. There are some sufferers who complain concerning the lack of competitors in dispensaries: native laws restrict the variety of dispensaries inside metropolis limits, and the few spots out there typically get awarded to teams who already function one other dispensary close by. Is Harborside, by opening a brand new location in San Jose, contributing to a scarcity of selection for sufferers?

SDA: Well, first, I wouldn’t be too crucial of native governments. Local governments historically have management over what sort of actions go on of their cities, and more often than not these selections are higher made on the native degree. Concerning the opposite query, I feel that sufferers are higher served by a couple of dispensaries like Harborside than they might be by lots of of so-called ‘pot shops’. A dispensary with a viable market base can afford to make vital investments into medical testing, coaching of staff, and giving again to the group. Because of those sorts of investments, we will affiliate the motion with competency and reliability, as an alternative of the dangerous stereotypes which have dogged us for years.

CNM: The Harborside model is gearing as much as go nationwide in an enormous method. Any nerves?

SDA: Nerves? No. Numerous pleasure. As a motion, we’ve been via some darkish occasions. There have been a few years of passing out leaflets nobody needed for rallies nobody got here to; now we’re taking a look at a exceptional alternative to point out individuals what medical hashish does. If we’re capable of present hashish sufferers for actual, I do know individuals will help us. The solely nerves I really feel are those I really feel for the very actual undeniable fact that the feds might come right here any time they need to shut us down, and that’s been a reality the entire time. But one factor about being within the public eye, it’ll be very troublesome to promote my arrest to the American public as soon as they’ve seen the reality about what we’re doing right here.

Interview by Jeremy Daw for Issue three of Cannabis Now Magazine.


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