10/09/15 Steve DeAngelo

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Steve DeAngelo, Dir of Harborside Health Center is author of a new book: The Cannabis Manifesto - A New Paradigm for Wellness + Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance re release of 6,000 Fed drug prisoners

Audio file


OCTOBER 9, 2015


Laraine Newman: Every time you buy pot from Mexico, or Colombia, you're putting an American out of work. We here at the American Dope Growers Union support ourselves by growing marijuana in American soil. We've had a pretty hard time on our own. But with the union, we can lead decent lives and stay off welfare. That's my union, and that's what our union label stands for.

Soooo look for, the Union label
when you are buying that joint, lid, or pound.
Remember somewhere, our Union's growing
Dope you'll be smoking, at the best price around
You know we work hard, but who's complaining,
When we at ADG get higher every day

DEAN BECKER: All right, there you have it. Saturday Night Live talking about Look for the Union Label on that marijuana. You are listening to Cultural Baggage on the Pacifica Network and the Drug Truth Network. I'm proud to have with us today a gentleman who stands for truth, reality, just has been at it for decades now. He's the CEO of I think the world's largest cannabis dispensary, and he's author of a brand new book, the Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness. It even includes a forward by the honorable mayor Willie L. Brown, Junior. I want to welcome Mister Steve DeAngelo. Hello, sir.

STEVE DEANGELO: Hello, Dean, great to be back with you again, how are you doing?

DEAN BECKER: I'm doing good. This book makes me feel better about the future. I think what you have contained in this book is going to change a lot of minds and perspectives.

STEVE DEANGELO: Well, I'm really glad to hear that, Dean, thank you for those kind words. That's exactly what I hoped to do with the book.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and you know, Steve, I'm encountering, even in the Houston area, there are people, old people, with cancers, whose doctors are recommending that they locate some medical marijuana. It is, you know, it's surreptitious, don't tell anybody I told you this, but go do it. And that's something in itself, isn't it?

STEVE DEANGELO: Well, it sure is, and you know, this is one of the major factors that's powering the increased pace of reform. We've got to the point now where there's just millions and millions, tens of millions of Americans who either have had a direct benefit from the plant, or they have somebody close to them, a friend or a family member, that's had direct benefit from the plant, and that's changing a lot of minds.

DEAN BECKER: And again, this is the Cannabis Manifesto. I, look, I'm a drug reformer, I've been following all this, I've interviewed many of the people that you reference and quote in your book, but I've found a new perspective even for, you know, my knowledge base. And I guess what I'm saying, Steve, is that I think this is 99 if not 100 percent of what's needed. If a politician were to read this, it would give them, hmm, the intellect or should I say the knowledge to move in a different direction. Would it not?

STEVE DEANGELO: Right. Well, you know, what I hoped to do with the book was a few things. One, I wanted to give people who already believed in cannabis reform a good tool kit so they could be the most effective activist possible. I also wanted to reach people who were on the fence, the wobblers, people who are, you know, not really sure yet. And then I wanted to give a road map to policy makers, to lawmakers, to regulators, about, you know, a rational and watchable way to approach this change that we're in the midst of.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and Steve, am I right, is Harborside the world's largest cannabis dispensary?

STEVE DEANGELO: Well, I used to be able to say that confidently, Dean, but, you know, there's so many new dispensaries opening now and so many places, you've got, you know, you've got dispensaries in Spain, now, you've got people who are, you know, opening up all over the country. We've got some places opening up in Las Vegas, so, you know, what I like to say these days is that we established the gold standard of cannabis retailing, and being the biggest isn't necessarily the most important thing, anyhow.

DEAN BECKER: There you go. Yeah, well said, Steve. Yeah, I was privileged to get to tour your facility there in Oakland, to go to the intake room, where the cannabis growers bring it in, where it's first analyzed, and you guys determine if, you know, there's mold or whatever, that's the first step, but you guys go well beyond that as well, do you not, in verifying the quality of the cannabis?

STEVE DEANGELO: Well, we do. You know, we worked with Steep Hill Laboratory to develop a really exciting new technology called the QuantiCann. The QuantiCann allows us to take a sample of cannabis and on site, at Harborside, within two or three minutes we can get an accurate cannabinoid, terpine, and moisture analysis of that sample of cannabis. So, that gives us a greatly enhanced ability to make good recommendations for different types of cannabis to our patients.

DEAN BECKER: You know, contained in here, talking about friends, associates we've both known over the years, and you talk about when you first met Jack Herer, and his approach towards hemp and understanding of where these laws, how these laws came to be. It's something that everybody should know as well, isn't it?

STEVE DEANGELO: Well, I, you know, I was really hugely inspired by Jack Herer, and the book that he wrote, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, and as I thought about the cannabis manifesto, I really took The Emperor Wears No Clothes as a sort of template, and what I tried to do was, was take the same kind of complete picture, take a complete look at cannabis that Jack did, but just with the updated information we've had in the thirty or plus years since that book was published, the new science, the new political developments, the new historical discoveries about cannabis. So, Jack changed everybody's conception of cannabis, I think, forever, and hopefully my book will be, take us down that road another step or two.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, moving to the third chapter here, it's titled Cannabis Has Always Been A Medicine, and I've talked about it here on this program that back in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, people were using cannabis. They had it in their medicine cabinet. But along came this guy Harry Anslinger, saying marijuana's been discovered coming across our borders, it's frightening, it will kill your children, all that crap. And people didn't realize they were talking about the very same medicine they had in their medicine cabinet. Your response there, Steve DeAngelo.

STEVE DEANGELO: Well yeah, you're absolutely right, it's kind of a crazy historical period, where there was a, you know, about 20 years, plus years in American history where smoking quote unquote marijuana would be illegal, but anybody could go down to the drug store and get a bottle of cannabis tincture, or a cannabis capsule. So, you know, cannabis was known to most Americans as a medicine, and as an industrial raw material. It wasn't until it became connected with racism that most Americans began to fear cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: And let's talk about that for a minute. You talk about that black people are four times, at minimum, more likely to be arrested and then several times more to be incarcerated and on down the line to be sent to prison. It is, it's racially motivated and it remains the same to this day, does it not?

STEVE DEANGELO: Well, it does, and you know, the New York Times did a groundbreaking series on this issue, and they really portrayed the racial disparity in cannabis enforcement as an unintended consequence, something that happened as the result of structural racism, institutional racism, but in fact if you, if you study the history what you find out is that racism was really the primary motivating force behind prohibition in the first place. The very first laws against cannabis in the United States were passed at the state level, and they were passed in 1911 and 1912, immediately after the Mexican Revolution, during a period when many refugees were coming north and were bringing cannabis, which was used as a medicine by the curanderos in Mexico, with them, and that was the origin of the very first cannabis laws in the United States, a reaction against Mexican refugees coming north.

DEAN BECKER: All right, I'm jumping to chapter four here, Choose Cannabis For Wellness, Not Intoxication, and the one phrase that jumps back at me is that you, I think you quoted Dennis Peron talking about that all use is medicinal. Talk about that potential.

STEVE DEANGELO: So, you know, I have a difficult time with the category "medical" or the category "recreational", because I think that most cannabis use falls into another area, that I call the overlooked wellness benefits of cannabis. And you know, I think about things like the ability of cannabis to extend your patience, or spark your creativity, or lift your sadness, or enhance the flavor of a meal or the sound of a piece of music or open you to a more full, spiritual experience or put you in closer touch with nature. Those things aren't medical and they're not, they're not recreational, but they are some of the most meaningful and important parts of the human experience. So I think that we really need to take a second look at the way we ourselves, those of us who use cannabis, think about it, and understand it more as a wellness product rather than something we get high on.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Perhaps a maintenance of health, if you will. You talked about creativity, and when I do an edible, typically 45 minutes, hour and a half later, I get a spark of inspiration. I come up with these crazy ideas for my bumpers and PSAs, they just, they appear. Maybe it's the dregs of the day come back to reinform, but it is, I can just about count on it. And it's just one of the benefits of cannabis, is it not?

STEVE DEANGELO: It is, and you know, you go through history and time, and you can find all sorts of artists who have used cannabis through the years. William Shakespeare was a cannabis consumer, the great Sufi poets out of antiquity were cannabis consumers. The early great jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong were huge cannabis consumers. So, you know, this is a plant which has inspired creative people literally for millennia.

DEAN BECKER: I think when I was out in California a couple of weeks back I saw a story, it was recycled I believe, but it talked about Mark Twain, when he was in San Francisco, ran into Hugh Fitz Ludlow I think is the name, and they shared some hashish together, and that's where Mark Twain's new slant on writing began. It's just something else. Again folks, we're speaking with Mister Steve DeAngelo. He's author of the Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness. Steve, I want to jump now to chapter five, Cannabis Reform Doesn't Harm Communities, It Strengthens Them, and I have some comments, but fill us in on what you mean there, sir.

STEVE DEANGELO: Sure. Well, you know, prohibition has brought a lot of harms to communities, it's empowered criminal gangs, it's brought sales to streets, it's diverted law enforcement from really important issues, it has divided families, children have been taken away from their parents, spouses have been parted from one another, there's been a really devastating effect on our communities. But when we reform the cannabis laws, what we see is that tax revenues increase, jobs are created, the power of gangs and cartels is reduced, the level of street violence goes down, law enforcement is able to focus on things that are really crimes, families are reunited instead of being parted, and so there are, there's a huge wealth of benefits that comes to communities when we implement cannabis reform.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Steve, thank you. I want to let the listeners know that I'm not going to make a big deal out of it, but today marks the 14 year anniversary of the Drug Truth Network, of Cultural Baggage and our presence on Pacifica and the Drug Truth Network, and I'm glad that we got Mister Steve DeAngelo with us. Steve, coming back to the idea that, you know, the creativity. Do you think it helped you design your idea, your, for the Harborside Health Center?

STEVE DEANGELO: Well, I'll answer that question, Dean, but first I just, I do want to make a big deal out of 14 years, because 14 years ago, to take a step and dedicate yourself to putting out the kind of information that you've been putting out, was not an easy step, it was a brave and a courageous step, and the work that you've done over these years has really been critical to moving this issue forward, and I want to honor you and salute you for these years of dedication. Thank you, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, Steve, thank you. And yeah, and it was creepy, that night when I went home, I didn't know who was going to kick in the door, the cartels or the cops, but hey, 14 years, nobody's ever given me any stuff about it. Now, you, chapter six, you mention that cannabis should be taxed and regulated as a wellness product. Let's talk about that, the benefit to government as well.

STEVE DEANGELO: Sure. Well, you know, one of the reasons that a lot of folks have advanced for changing cannabis laws is to raise a huge amount of money with really high taxes on cannabis. And I think that's exactly the wrong approach. You know, right now we have an existing underground market for cannabis, and the cartels and the gangs, they don't pay license fees or have liability insurance, or workmen's comp, or retirement programs, or any of the costs that legal cannabis distributors have. So when you put a huge tax on top of it, like they did for example in Washington state, they put a 25 percent tax on at three levels of taxation, so it's basically like a 75 percent tax, and none of the legal dispensaries could really make enough money to effectively stay in business, they've had a huge problem with that. So, I think that we need to recognize that cannabis is not a harm that we want to keep away from people, it's actually a benefit, right? When we make cannabis more available to people, opioid overdoses go down, traffic fatalities go down, domestic violence goes down, and so putting a sin tax on something that is a beneficial wellness product is a really destructive thing to do.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and Steve, I think about the, I don't know, the enticement or whatever you might call it that, when marijuana is illegal, and you know, kids rebel. They might want to embrace it, they might want to break the law to impress their friends. It's just another sort of enticement, is it not?

STEVE DEANGELO: Yeah, you know, I mean, when you combine forbidden fruit with teenage rebellion, it's usually a pretty powerful cocktail, and that's exactly what we've done with cannabis, and you know what's even worse is that so many parents who do use cannabis responsibly have been terrorized to the point where they don't even want their children to know that they're cannabis consumers, and so the kids, instead of learning about cannabis consumption in a reasonable way, are left with nothing but stupid Hollywood stoner movies to model for their cannabis use, and it's really a tragedy.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah, you're right, it is a bad example, those stoner movies. And again, I'm looking at your chapter, Cannabis Should Be Taxed and Regulated, and I'm looking at the home growing thing, and I've said this on the air many times, for 30-something years I grew some pretty good pot, you could let it grow for 14 months here, get 26 feet tall. And I guess it brings to mind that eventually, once legal and this outdoor grown stuff is given the respect it deserves, the price is going to fall pretty significantly, is it not?

STEVE DEANGELO: Yeah, I mean, I think that the price of cannabis is going to drop to well less than half of what it is now, in California, and maybe more than that. And this is a good thing, this is something that we should celebrate. If you ask most people who use cannabis what their biggest problem with it is, they'll tell you it just costs too much. So, it's something that should happen. You know we also need to consider the health benefits of cannabis are so widespread, it's such a powerful medicine for so many different conditions. What about places like Africa, where the amount of money that's available for healthcare is very, very small. If cannabis is a hugely expensive item, is it ever going to make its way into those folks' hands, or is it going to be a medicine for rich people.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly. Exactly. All right, friends, I want to remind you once again, we're speaking with Mister Steve DeAngelo, the chief executive officer of Harborside Health Center in Oakland, and he's author of this brand new book, I highly recommend, The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm For Wellness. Now, Steve, when, you know, I don't know how to say this, in California, you guys have some new laws, new regulations, that will better control regulation and distribution, is that right?

STEVE DEANGELO: Well, you know, in 1996, we passed an initiative that instructed the state legislature to regulate the cultivation and distribution of cannabis, and unfortunately, pressure from law enforcement organizations deterred and kept the legislature from acting on those instructions until about three weeks ago, when they did pass a set of statewide regulations. The good news is that they are statewide regulations, and they do greenlight a for-profit industry in California. The bad news is that a lot of concessions were made to law enforcement, to liquor lobbies, and we ended up with a set of regulations that's going to be very, very difficult for patients and providers in California. We're hopeful that we'll get the worst of that fixed over time, but it's still going to be a challenging situation for a little while.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. I'm going to jump here to Chapter Seven: Cannabis Reform Is A Social Justice Movement. And, nothing could be more exact than that statement. Please tell us your thought in that regard, Steve DeAngelo.

STEVE DEANGELO: Right. Well, you know, I believe that access to cannabis, like access to all healing botanicals, is a basic human right. When you consider that the endocannabinoid system, endogenously in our own bodies, makes many of the same compounds that you find in the plant, well, you can't think about cannabis as something that's optional. Cannabis is something that is integral to human health and human wellness, and nobody, and no government, no religion, no economic class, has the right to take such a valuable plant away from human beings.

Beyond that, we need to recognize that prohibition has caused a huge range of social ills, it's, it has caused racially based mass incarceration, it has led to all sorts of environmental consequences by forcing cannabis production indoors instead of allowing it to happen outdoors, it's completely warped many of our leading institutions, it's divided families, and really had a devastating impact on, you know, almost every area that it comes into contact with, so, one way of looking at legalizing cannabis is that it's really the lowest hanging fruit on the social justice tree, by legalizing cannabis we reduce mass incarceration, we reduce racism, we help clean up the environment, we create more jobs, we restore families and bring families together, so it really is a social justice movement, no matter how you pick up this thing and turn it around and look at it.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, and your chapter eight is titled Legalization Cannot and Will Not Be Stopped, and that brings me to a situation. Here in Houston, I've interviewed our police chief Charles McClelland three times, I'm going to interview him again in two weeks. And he's been, he was on my show, it's been, the audio has been used by NBC, Fox, it's been quoted in the Chronicle four times that I'm aware of, two weeks ago they were talking, they had an editorial that the legalization of marijuana is inevitable. And they were talking about the police chief, quoted him on my show, the drug war is a miserable failure, talked about how we arrest too many people for way too little and keep them for way too long. And the police chief, they didn't quote this, on my show he said he wants the FDA to regulate marijuana, he wants it for sale at CVS and Walgreens for pennies on the black market dollar. It's just time for change, for more politicians to say what they know to be true, isn't it?

STEVE DEANGELO: Well, it is, and you know, fortunately we're beginning to see that happen, and it's just like, you know, the very first cracks in the dam. The first guy, the first police chief, the first person in the department, the first politicians who stands up for cannabis reform, takes a pretty big risk. But what we've been seeing is, they actually benefit from it. You know, politicians who embrace cannabis reform win elections. Politicians who oppose cannabis reform lose elections. Police chiefs that embrace cannabis reforms see falling crime rates, they see safer communities. Police chiefs who fight it see more gang activity, they see more violence on their streets. And so, you know, I think that any well meaning law enforcement official needs to recognize that public safety is going to be greatly enhanced by taking cannabis out of the hands of the criminal underground and putting it into the hands of citizens.

DEAN BECKER: Just huge common sense, is it not. Yeah. Friends, once again, speaking with Mister Steve DeAngelo, author of The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm For Wellness. I highly recommend that you read it, share it with your mom and dad or your kids, and maybe send a copy to your elected officials. It's just time, it just seems so ripe for picking to me, that we can end this madness if we just pull our heads out and look around. Steve, we've got just a minute or two left. Any closing thoughts you'd like to share?

STEVE DEANGELO: Well, you know, I'm just beginning to hear some really encouraging news out of Texas, the news that you just shared is really great. I think that there's been motion on the state level, and you know, Texas is one of the most high-spirited, distinctive states that we have in the nation, and so it's great to see Texas coming on line into the movement. I think that it has a lot to add, and I look forward to hearing more tales of progress happening.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Thank you, sir. Steve, I look forward to seeing you guys soon, soon as I can get out there. And again, folks, the book, The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm For Wellness. I highly recommend it. Steve DeAngelo, I thank you, sir.

STEVE DEANGELO: Thank you, Dean.

MICHAEL COLLINS: My name's Michael Collins, I'm policy manager at Drug Policy Alliance's office of national affairs. I work at the federal level with Congress and the administration on a number of issues including marijuana reform and sentencing reform.

DEAN BECKER: Now Michael, there's been a report that indicates there will be 6,000 people who will be eligible to be released from federal prison within the next month. Tell us about that, please.

MICHAEL COLLINS: So this is the result of the step that was taken last year by the Sentencing Commission to revise guidelines and also make certain pieces of the federal code retroactive. And so effectively, these people have the chance throughout this year to petition judges for early release, effectively shaving, you know, a number of years off offenses. Many, you know, one year or two year reductions, and so this was in the pipeline last year, and like I say, there's been a slow, very deliberate process where judges have heard petitions from these individuals and the prosecutors and probation officers have been able to weigh in, so this isn't, you know, it's not like a mass release where we're sort of opening the gates and all these random, you know, incarcerated individuals that we don't know are leaving prison. It's more deliberate and thoughtful, that, and really it's a good step towards, you know, reducing a lot of the harsh sentences that have dominated the drug war.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. This is not just a drop in the bucket, but it's not a large portion of those that are arrested for drug charges, is it?

MICHAEL COLLINS: You know, Congress had to take action to reduce and eliminate mandatory minimums and we're actually very optimistic that Congress is going to do something. The Senate introduced legislation last week that would roll, to make some of the crack and powder disparity they already passed retroactive, and so you would see more people have their sentences reduced, and therefore leave prison early. There's also, you know, the clemency program that's going on with President Obama, we should like to see that ramped up, but the most important thing is, you know, Congress is the only institution that can change laws, and until Congress takes action it won't have as much impact as we would want.

DEAN BECKER: Should note as well that this does nothing to impact the states that have even more prisoners behind bars, right?

MICHAEL COLLINS: No, this is all federal level, yeah, you're right, it's not, you know, the states are, you know, obviously have a lot of responsibility, so this does not impact the states, although you know states are really, a few states have engaged in and are pursuing reform of the criminal justice system and that is actually having an effect politically on the federal level, that's what's moving, you know, people like Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, and Mike Lee, you know, as well as folks on the Democrat side to actually take action on this issue.

DEAN BECKER: Well, indeed. Well, friends, we've been speaking with Mister Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance. Your website, Mister Collins.

MICHAEL COLLINS: www.DrugPolicy.org.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, out of time. I want to thank you for listening to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I want to thank Steve DeAngelo, author of the Cannabis Manifesto, and I want to remind you once again, 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. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.