01/30/11 - Steve DeAngelo

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Steven DeAngelo, Exec Dir of Harborside Health Center the worlds largest cannabis distributor + Mary Jane Borden of Drug War Facts

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / January 30, 2011


Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”


My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.


Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker. We’re going to have with us today the Head of the Harborside Health Center based in Oakland, California. The gentlemen in question, Mister Steven DeAngelo, a gentleman that has been very much interested in public policy and doing things better here in America and he has certainly done a great job with Harborside Health Center and with that let’s bring in Mister Steven DeAngelo. How are you, sir?

Steven DeAngelo: I am great Dean. How are you?

Dean Becker: I’m well, Steve. It’s always nice to talk with you. You’re a man of great vision, I think, a man who’s accomplished much there in Oakland. Why don’t you give the listeners kind of a summary of Harborside, maybe the beginnings and maybe the a little bit of the development over the years.

Steven DeAngelo: Well sure Dean, I’d be happy to. Thanks for those kind words of appreciation. Harborside has been an amazing adventure, really a culmination of my life’s work.

We opened four and a half years ago in Oakland, California. We are one of Oakland’s four licensed medical cannabis dispensaries but we do a lot more at Harborside than just dispense medicine.

When I opened Harborside, I really wanted to create a model of positive cannabis distribution. So, I asked myself, “If I was a mainstream citizen and I heard that a medical cannabis dispensary was going to be opening in my city or my neighborhood, what concerns would I have? And wheat type of facility would I want to see? What would reassure me, instead of making me more concerned and more afraid?”

I tried to anticipate those concerns and then build solutions into our approach here at Harborside. So, from the way that Harborside looks, to the way that our staff is trained, everything that we do here is geared to have the most positive example of cannabis distribution possible.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Steven DeAngelo: We are a non-profit community service organization, which is what every dispensary in the state of California is required to be. So, when you walk into Harborside you walk into an environment that anybody should fell confortable in.

It’s full of beautiful, natural fibers and wood and flowers and light and greenery and beauty but we wanted to create an environment where anybody could feel comfortable. So, you don’t really have to be a Rastafarian or a punk rocker to feel comfortable at Harborside.

Dean Becker: (Laughs) No.

Steven DeAngelo: We really welcome people of all colors, races, ages, people with all different types of medical conditions and we try to make everyone feel welcome here.

Dean Becker: Yeah Steve, I observe from afar, if you will, I – I’m proud that I was the first person you allowed to tour the facility with a video camera. We’ve gotten tens of thousands of YouTube hits from that video and following that you guys have featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, NPR, BBC – the list goes on and on, does it not?

Steven DeAngelo: We’ve been fortunate to get a lot of recognition for the model that we’ve built, Dean. I’m really grateful for finally having a voice. I’ve been an activist for many, many years and it really feels good to be able to have your words listened to and broadcast to the public.

Dean Becker: That’s what’s happened in the last couple of years in particular. There is no longer that “joking aside” contained in the reporting. There is no longer that snickering up their sleeve. It’s been given respect, is it not?

Steven DeAngelo: Well, it is but I think it’s due in large part to pioneering efforts, by journalists such as yourself, who took the lead set the example and really have begun to shame the mainstream media into covering this story from the serious point of view and perspective that it deserves.

Dean Becker: Yeah Steve, I was real proud. I had another video wee they had busted the Healing Arts Center in Los Angeles. I shot a video of with the DEA standing guard for the – um, excuse me – with the Los Angeles police standing guard for the DEA. Al Roker called me up and wanted to use some of that video on one of those many new television programs that are beginning to speak that same truth, right?

Steven DeAngelo: Yeah, well, you know this is how change happens. It happens with each one of us picking up a camera, each one of us writing up our words, putting it out there, speaking truth to power and over time enough of us working together are able to create a movement that’s now grown into something that is unstoppable.

Dean Becker: Now Steven, the Harborside was the original store, if you will. You guys, if you’ll pardon the pun, you cloned that for the city of San Jose.

Steven DeAngelo: Yes, we have a second location in San Jose. It’s an independent collective but they are our sister collective. They share our name and our approach and many of our team members. So, if anybody is too far from Oakland but you’re close to San Jose, just go on over to 2109 Ringwood Road and check out our San Jose location.

Dean Becker: And this reach, this ability of yours to, as you say, to think this through how should a cannabis dispensary work how should it be, you know, put together has also led others starting cannabis dispensaries to call upon your expertise. You even have another have an affiliate organization CannBe, which helps those other dispensaries to do it, right?

Steven DeAngelo: Yes, CannBe is a consulting and management company, to help perspective and existing dispensary operators replicate the best practices model that we’ve developed here

Dean Becker: Right and each city and county has different ways they want to control the situation, right? So, it’s sometimes even in flux. It changes over time, as well. You’ve got to stay on your toes, right?

Steven DeAngelo: Yeah, well here in California, of course, we have a patchwork of regulation that varies from county to county, city to city and frequently changes within a city over a fairly short period of time. So, when operating medical cannabis collective in California, frequently you’re trying to hit a moving target and it can be tricky.

Dean Becker: Yeah, San Diego and Los Angeles make sure it’s a moving target, huh?

Steven DeAngelo: Yeah, it’s been all over the place and in places in southern California, where you’ve seen radical shifts in a city’s posture towards medical cannabis over a very short period of time.

We’ve seen that happen in San Diego, where I think we’ve seen two or three different successive cycles of tolerance and repression over the last few years. It makes it very, very difficult for anybody to really understand what the law is. We hope that every jurisdiction in the state of California will adopt a reasonable of set of win/win regulations that will allow this really critical industry to blossom in a responsible way.

Dean Becker: Alright friends, once again, we’re speaking with Mister Steven DeAngelo. He heads up the Harborside Health Center. Steven, we last saw one another up in Denver during the KushCon convention.

I want to share my thought with you that Denver has – and again, I’m using the word too much perhaps, kind of cloned what’s going on in California and maybe even taken it a little further. Your thoughts on that?

Steven DeAngelo: Well, I was really, really excited by what I saw in Colorado. Of course, Colorado has a very different model than we have here in California. Colorado has state wide regulations, which license each and every phase of the industry from cultivation to sales to production cannabis infused products. So, I believe that that set of very clear state wide regulations has enabled a more orderly unfolding of the industry there and that’s, I think, very heartening.

Dean Becker: Now Steven, I live in Texas and you know, there’s a lot of people producing some quality indoor product around here now but it’s still not as prevalent, of course, as in California or Colorado.

The Mexicans tend to be providing the bulk of what gets used around here and I was looking at a story in a recent edition of High Times talking about the price of outdoor in California has been falling over the last several years and the price actually is now starting to approach what these Mexicans are selling theirs for. There’s another battle underway there, right?

Steven DeAngelo: Oh, yeah. Well, you know, the reason that cannabis production in the United States moved indoors was because of legal repression. I think that as you see legal cannabis cultivation becoming more possible that you’re going to see people moving out of the indoor cultivation into more outdoor cultivation.

Of course, the cost of production in outdoor gardens is much less. So, I think that we’re already at a point where we can tell – compete with the Mexicans for any outdoor grown cannabis in the United States. I think we’re increasingly going to see that being the case. You can’t sell Mexican in California anymore, nobody will buy it.

Dean Becker: Right, I hear you and that’s the good thing really is that Shorty Guzmán is not making a dollar there in California, huh?

Steven DeAngelo: Well, I think that that we have to be real careful about that because there’s a lot of folks in Mexico, good people, who love up in the Sierra, who live all over Mexico who are just trying to make a living and they’re not responsible for the violence that takes place after they grow that cannabis.

I do worry, as we grow our cannabis industry in the Unites States, what’s going to happen to the Campesinos in Mexico who have been surviving by growing a little bit of cannabis? So, I wish them the very best but at the same time, I think that the only way that we are going to address the violence in Mexico, the only ways that we are really going to get a secure border is if we start producing the cannabis that we consume in the United States in the United States.

Dean Becker: Yeah. Now, You are absolutely right. Now Steve, you and I and Ed Rosenthal had a little discussion about that thought that the production will be moving outdoors more and more as it becomes more legal.

We even talked about the fact that you can still grow the finest hydro – the finest crystals if it wasn’t out in the rain and the wind out in a green house or something the quality could still be maintained, right?

Steven DeAngelo: Yeah, I think that you’re going to be seeing more and more cultivation that’s going to take advantage of the natural energy of the sun. If you take a look at the carbon footprint that results from growing cannabis indoors under high intensity lamps, you find some really scary statistics. Like, it takes two hundred pounds of coal to produce every pound of cannabis—

Dean Becker: Ooh.

Steven DeAngelo: Indoors under high intensity lamps. Now, I know that most people who are cannabis people are going to be disturbed when they learn that that and we should be disturbed. So, I think this is something that we need to address within our community and I think that we will.

The reason what we developed indoor cultivation was because were forced to because of legal repression. Now that the legal repression is easing up, I think that our collective conscience is going to engage and we’re going to take care of this problem.

Dean Becker: You know, my first trip to San Francisco now about nine years ago, I guess it was, to a NORML convention and there was a gentleman selling edibles for $10 a dose and that’s another example of where the prices are falling is within the edible market place, right?

Steven DeAngelo: Yeah well, I don’t know that the price of edibles is dropping. I couldn’t really give you any firm data on that. I could tell you that the rate of consumption of edibles is definitely increasing.

So, today we sell in absolute terms about four times as much cannabis as we did when we first opened and we’ve, you know, as a percentage we’ve double as a percentage of sales. So, there’s an ever increasing number of points who are interested in non-smoked forms of cannabis.

We’ve gone way beyond brownies now. We have all sorts of capsule sublingual sprays, tinctures, lotions. So, there’s a wide variety of options available for patient now who are not comfortable smoking or inhaling cannabis.

Dean Becker: And I think I even heard something about a soda pop, is that right?

Steven DeAngelo: Well, yeah I’m not a fan of the soda pop, Dean. I’ve got to tell you, I think it doesn’t do our movement any favors when people package cannabis in ways that are going to be attractive to children. I think we really need to be very, very sensitive about that.

Dean Becker: Well, I’m with you. Yeah.

Steven DeAngelo: If it’s medicine, it’s medicine. It’s not soda pop.

Dean Becker: I hear you, Steve. Okay, ...the tangling of perception. It’s still a big problem within the drug reform community and in regards to cannabis because I heard a story about a gentleman who had his marijuana in the same drawer where they found a bag of candy. They charged him with child endangerment, as well. It’s perception, right?

Steven DeAngelo: Well, that’s obviously ridiculous and an egregious abuse of authority but I think that within our movement we’ve not always been sensitive to concerns about children and I think we really need to be.

You know, in the early days of the industry here in California, there was some “geniuses” that thought it would be a great idea to package up some candy bars that were infused with cannabis that looked just like regular candy bars. They had names like Reese’s Stonercups.

Of course, inevitably, these candy bars were left sitting on somebody’s kitchen table and unknowingly ingested the cannabis laced candy bars and then you had kids going to the emergency room. You had freaked out parents or freaked out grandparents. You had terrible stories in the newspaper. Ultimately they had federal raids on these people who were manufacturing those goods.

So, I just think we need to be really, really sensitive about the ways that we package and distribute cannabis and always make sure that we are not only above and beyond reproach but above and beyond the perception of reproach.

Dean Becker: There we go. Yeah, yeah. Steve, there was a big meeting of California NORML, I think it was a few days ago, talking about the next resolution bill, the new Prop 19, I don’t know how to say it exactly that they will want to put on the ballot for 2012. Did you hear any feedback from that? What are your thoughts for the next cycle? For the next attempt to legalize?

Steven DeAngelo: Well, Dean, I hoped we can have a full and complete dialog of the entire community. During the last election cycle we saw some really ugly divisions within our community.

I was present at some events where people were really ugly with each other, who were screaming at each other, who were hurling obscenities at each other, in a way that I just hope I never see again.

So, I think the key to victory is unity. I think the key to unity is dialog and consensus. I hope that before anybody starts advancing any language for an initiative that there a full and complete dialogue amongst all the aspect— different parts of our community and that we come up with something that everybody can buy into and enthusiastically support.

Dean Becker: Yeah Steve, I think about the perception, if you will and the point is that the cannabis community has been trying to develop positive controls, positive means by which others can look at what‘s going on and see that its respectable, that it’s a fine attempt to protect the children, to provide safety, decent prices and all that and the – I understand that you were involved in the creation and development of Steep Hill Labs, tell us about them, what part they do to provide quality.

Steven DeAngelo: Well, Steep Hill is California’s premier leading laboratory that does analysis of cannabis. So, Steep Hill does testing for both potency and safety of cannabis.

An interesting story, when I was opening Harborside, before we opened, I called every single analytical laboratory in the Bay Area and asked them to test our medicine because to me if I was going to call it medicine, I needed to know two things.

I needed to know what was in it and I needed to know that it wasn’t going to hurt anybody. Unfortunately, all of those labs turned me down because they were afraid of breaking federal law.

So, from the day that we opened our doors and started thinking about and working towards establishing our own lab, it took about eighteen months. I finally ran into some other really talented young activists who were interested in pursuing it. Dave Lampach and Addison DeMoura and together we launched Steep Hill Laboratory.

It was the very first lab to do cannabis analysis and in the United States and I am happy to say that that example has inspired several other labs. So, there’s now labs in Colorado, Montana and Southern California and I think that collectively, we are bringkng a new level of legitimacy and respect to the cannabis community.

Dean Becker: I want to alert the listeners, when I toured the Harborside facilities, Steve gave me a fairly extensive tour and there was a room with a bunch of inspectors, I guess, if you will that were examining each and every bud to make sure that there were no contaminants what so ever. I mean, legitimacy and quality it’s so important isn’t it, Steve?

Steven DeAngelo: Well absolutely, I think that most people have a very close relationship with their cannabis and it’s important to them that it be handled in a way that is respectful, that is clean, that is safe.

I think that the success at Harborside really demonstrates that the more care that you take with the cannabis, the more care you take with the environment that you create for patients, the more respect that you give to everybody who comes into your establishment, the more likely you are to be successful

Dean Becker: Steve, we have a few minutes and I want to talk about, you know, I mentioned that I thought that Denver had kind of cloned Oakland or something but what it really boils down to is that to build communication with your elected officials, to have them be part of that control, to let – so that they can realize that they are not creating a worse situation. States like Texas maybe another twenty years but there’s all kinds of efforts underway across this county to further legitimize and garner that respect, isn’t there?

Steven DeAngelo: Well absolutely. I’ll tell you what, I don’t think it is twenty years away in Texas, Dean. I don’t buy that because I’ll tell you why, all over Texas there are people who are suffering who either are being helped by cannabis or could be helped by cannabis and some of those people are either elected officials or the relatives of elected officials. They’re going to learn.

The first elected officials that are going to be on the side of medical cannabis are going to be people that have to use it themselves because they get gravely ill of their relatives use it when they get gravely ill.

So, I believe that day is coming. I don’t think that it is twenty years off. I certainly hope it is not anymore than five years off. And you know what? I know that Texans are really competitive. I mean, come on. Come on Texas! Arizona, New Mexico and California are all ahead of you now, come on.

Dean Becker: Yeah, good point. Steve, there was a Zogby poll done, I’m guessing in 2005, I don’t have it with me, where they polled Texas, “What do you think of medical marijuana?” 76% were in favor. It’s politicians that have got to pull their head out, huh?

Steven DeAngelo: Right. Well, you know what? If just half of that 76% of voters got on the phone or got on the computer and got on touch with their elected representatives and told then to support medical cannabis, you’d start seeing a shift.

So, I really urge anybody who is out there – all Texas – please, it does not take that much time. Find out who your elected representatives are and pick up the phone. It only takes about three minutes to call them up and tell them that you want them to support medical cannabis and it will make a huge difference if we can all do this together. We can get this done.

Dean Becker: You are absolutely right my friend. Well friends, once again we are speaking with Steven DeAngelo, the Executive Director of Harborside Health Center. Steve, any closing thoughts? And please share your website with the listeners.

Steven DeAngelo: Sure, the website is harboresidehealthcenter.com. Check out the website. There’s lots of good information up there.

I guess, my closing thought, Dean is just that the power belongs to us. We can throw off the repression and the oppression that we’ve been suffering under.

There is a huge momentum that has gathered up now all around the world we see people rising up and we see people rising up in Tunisia. We see people rising up in Egypt. This is the land of the brave and the home of the free but let’s do it. Let’s get it done here.

Dean Becker: Alright Steven DeAngelo, thank you so much

Steven DeAngelo: You are so welcome. Thank you, Dean.

Dean Becker: Bye, bye.


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Mary Jane Borden: Hello Drug Policy Aficionados, I’m Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts.

The question for this week asks: What are Special Rapporteurs?

Shortly after enacting its charter in 1946, the United Nations established the Commission on Human Rights. According to its 2009 report, the Commission on Human Rights feels that “independent human rights experts with mandates to investigate report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective.”

Some experts are called “Rapporteurs,” a French term for reporter. Rapporteurs carry out their designated mandated via special procedures. There are thirty one thematic and country mandates currently.

Special Rapporteurs have issued several reports on mandate germane to drug policy.

The May 2010 report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, by Philip Alston, stated, “in Afghanistan, the US has said that drug traffickers on the ‘battlefield’ who have links to the insurgency may be targeted and killed. This is not consistent with the traditionally understood concepts under IHL [International Humanitarian Law].”

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The August 2010 report of the Special Rapporteurs on the right of everyone to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health conceded that, “While drugs may have a pernicious effect on individual lives and society, this excessively punitive regime has not achieved its stated public health goals, and has resulted in countless human rights violations.”

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These facts and others like them can be found in the Human Rights and United Nations sections in the Civil Rights chapters of Drug War Facts at www.drugwarfacts.org.

If you have a question for which you need facts, please email it to me at mjborden@drugwarfacts.org. I’ll try to answer your question in an upcoming show.

So, remember when you need facts about drugs and drug policy you can get the facts at Drug War Facts.


Dean Becker: Alright, I hope you enjoyed this edition of Cultural Baggage. I want to thank Mister Steve DeAngelo and the Harborside Health Center. Once again, their website is http://www.harborsidehealthcenter.com.

Be sure to tune into this week’s Century of Lies, which follows next on many of the Drug Truth Network stations. Our guest will be Brendan Kiley. He’s a reporter based in Seattle. He’s telling the story of corruption, violence and doom.

You know, I got to remind you once again that because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.


To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Drug Truth Network programs are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.