01/06/17 Steve DeAngelo

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Steven DeAngelo, CEO of Harborside Health Center, author of Cannabis Manifesto, Mike Hilliard, retired Baltimore Police Major + Adam Eidenger & effort to smoke out the Trump inauguration

Audio file


JANUARY 6, 2017


MUSIC: 2016 truly sucked,
'17 will be much worse.
We'll need so to give it all,
And lift this evil curse.

DEAN BECKER: Won't you help lift the curse? The song: Humankind. This program: Cultural Baggage. I'm Dean Becker. Let's go.

Well, folks, the news is breaking all around the country, all around the world, people are waking up to the need for legitimate supplies of marijuana and in particular for medical marijuana. We have with us today a gentleman I think is the head of the world's largest supplier of medical cannabis, he's the CEO and the founder of Harborside Health Center. With that, I want to welcome the author of The Cannabis Manifesto, Mister Stephen DeAngelo. Hello, sir.

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Hello, Dean. Great to be here with you, and you know, we were just sat down, we had our tenth anniversary at Harborside, and we were calculating the amount of cannabis that we sold, and it turns out that over the last decade, we've sold a quarter of a billion dollars worth of cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Wow. That is something, Stephen. You know, you guys have outlets in Oakland, you have one in San Jose, and you're even doing delivery services, now?

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Yeah, we are. We are aggressively expanding our delivery footprint. We started that delivery when we thought the feds were going to come in and take away our brick and mortar locations, so we've been doing it for a while. But, you know, we have a new licensing program in California now that's really going to allow us to expand that system pretty massively.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir, and Steve, will you guys be branching out into the recreational area as well?

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Yeah, well, you know, I prefer the term adult use to recreational. But we certainly are, and, you know, we hope to do that sooner rather than later. Prop 64 does allow for the issuance of temporary adult use licenses, and so we're hopeful that we can start getting some adult use licenses here in California fairly soon.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that's wonderful news. Now, it's been approximately two months since we had our nation's elections. There was much that led me to despair, but there were also many positives that came forward. Why don't you tell us your interpretation. We doubled the number of legal states. What's that going to mean to the rest of the nation?

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Well, you know, we had this very strange election, where, you know, on the one hand, we had the closest thing to a national referendum on the cannabis issue that we ever have had, and maybe ever will have in this country. And the voters were very clear, cannabis reform was the only issue there was a bipartisan consensus on. Cannabis won in 8 out of 9 states, including places like North Dakota and Arkansas. And the only way that cannabis reform initiatives won in those deeply red states was with millions of Trump voters voting also in favor of cannabis reform.

So, we had this tremendous victory on the one hand, on the other hand, you know, we have the Trump administration coming in, with folks like Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as the Attorney General, and so that's, you know that is disturbing and troubling, from a federal enforcement point of view. So, even though I think the states we don't really know what is going to happen, I think that the Trump administration has yet to have their own conversation about cannabis and decide what they're going to do on the issue.

We at this point, you know, have to hope that they're going to respect states' rights, and simultaneously prepare for another federal crackdown, the likes of which we saw in California in 2011.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah. Fingers are crossed there, buddy. You know, I think about the situation, there are, you know, local elections and others, and I want to pat myself and my fair city on the back a bit. Our newly elected DA, newly elected sheriff, and the recently appointed police chief are all saying, hey, we've overdone it on marijuana, let's stop arresting all these kids, let's ride them a ticket. Now, for Texas, that is a massive change, if you will. And I guess it's indicative of what's going on around the country. Right?

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Yeah, it's indicative of what's going on around the country, and what's going on around the world. So we're just seeing a quickening pace of cannabis reform, everywhere, and you know, in addition to the signs of progress that you're talking about in Texas, I can tell you that some extremely powerful and influential people from the investor community, Texans, are very, very interested in moving reform in the state forward.

And so, you know, what we're beginning to see now is that the cannabis movement, largely by virtue of the new legal cannabis industry, has moved beyond the fringes and margins of society, and I'm a proud fringe dweller myself, for many years, but, you know, now what we've done is, we have managed to pull in some of, you know, very powerful, influential people, from the business community, from the political community, from the investor community, who also believe that a time for a change has come. And so we're seeing a lot of acceleration, here in the United States and around the world.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. It's been just a couple of weeks, just a couple of weeks back they had a seminar at the Texas Medical Center, focused on medical marijuana and perhaps, you know, making the Texas Medical Center one of the leading experts in cannabis science. It is happening in Texas, huh?

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Oh, yeah, it absolutely is, and I think that, you know, I think that there's a number of universities that will be competing for that kind of research, across the country. And you know, what we're really seeing here is that, is that the whole world is finally waking up to the real value of this plant, and I always knew that it would happen, it's taken a little longer than I had hoped. But at the end of the day, what's driving this is that people have a lot more access to information, and it's a lot more difficult now than it was 30 years ago for a government to lie to its people, and get away with it. And the world simply cannot afford not to embrace cannabis now.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and, something else that's been percolating quite a bit. It was, what, two, three years back, Doctor Sanjay Gupta put forward his report about the benefit of cannabis for epilepsy, and other debilitating diseases. And I think more and more people around the country are finding out that it works for their child, or their elder with a slipped disk, or for folks like me, who are alcoholic, and need that substitute to keep from driving ourselves to drink, so to speak. It's catching on, isn't it, Steve?

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Yeah, it is, you know, what we've found is that, you know, the single most important factor in whether somebody supports cannabis reform or not is whether or not they know somebody that's benefited from using the plant.

And, you know, here in California, where we have the, you know, the world's most mature, longest-lived medical cannabis system, what we've found is that you can go into the most conservative parts of our state, and, you know, contrary to what a lot of folks believe, there are parts of California that are deeply, deeply red and very, very conservative, rural, agricultural communities in the state. And I've had an opportunity to really start working in those communities, and meeting a lot of the folks who are there. And some exceptionally, you know, respectable, straightlaced, conservative people, who you would never expect it, have had personal experiences, either themselves or family members or close friends, who have benefited from medical cannabis, and they've turned into evangelists for the plant.

So, the most unlikely people in the state, and so, the power of therapeutic cannabis is just, it's undeniable, and it very quickly brings people over to our side, once they've had direct experience with it.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. Last week I had the new, newly installed police chief of Houston, Art Acevedo, come on my show. And I told him, fifteen years ago I quit growing because I thought I'd have a laser beam on me, to keep doing it and the radio show as well. But I told him, you know, sometime in the near future, I want to open up a little shop, Becker's Buds, and sell quality buds at a low price, and he didn't object. He kind of laughed, and seemed to accept that that was inevitable. Your thoughts there, Steve.

STEPHEN DEANGELO: I want to be at the opening, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: I'll invite you. I certainly will. And, it kind of proves the point, that the reefer madness is just dissipating, isn't it?

STEPHEN DEANGELO: It is. You know, elections matter, and, you know, as we've heard from the incoming administration over and over again, election gives you a mandate to change things. Well, we have, there's not an other single issue on the ballot this election cycle in which so many voters from both parties reached agreement. And that changes things, and I think that the new attitude that you're seeing from elected representatives in Texas reflects the fact that elections matter.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. No, I, a comment from our newly installed district attorney, Kim Ogg, at her swearing in, she said something to the effect that, I have had a huge problem putting marijuana users in the same cell with murderers. And it made me smile. Your thoughts, sir.

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Well, it's just such a wonderful time for folks like you and I, Dean, who have been on this road for so many years. You know, you know a truth, like you and I discovered the truth about cannabis many years ago, and if you're a decent person, you advance that truth, you try to advocate for that truth. And over the years, though, no matter how truthful you know it to be, when you spend years and years having people dismiss you, laugh at you, not take you seriously, claim that your science is inaccurate, that you're trying to swindle people or fool people, or sell them on Cheech and Chong medicine, to finally see some of the respected authority figures in our society embracing some sanity around cannabis is profoundly validating on a personal level. It makes me feel like the time and the sacrifices that I've made to advance this issue have been very much worthwhile.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, Steve, we're about to wrap it up here, but I want to share this last thought with you. I, the day that our new DA got installed, I was lucky enough to have her celphone. I texted her and congratulated her, and she sent me back a text, congratulating me for my recent interview with the police chief. It just felt so good.

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Yeah, that's pretty amazing, right? You know, it's like, the people that, you know, the only way we could get into their office a few years ago would be to get arrested. Today, we're having cordial conversations with, and working to solve regulatory challenges together. So it's a really, really great time to be alive, for me.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, wonderful closing thoughts. Would you like to share your website with the listeners, please?

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Sure. It's SteveDeAngelo.com. STEVEDEANGELO.com. Or, ShopHarborside.com. You can find out all about what we're up to on either one of those sites.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Steve.

STEPHEN DEANGELO: Very best of luck, and loop me in when that opening's happening, I want to be there.

DEAN BECKER: Will do. Might be a couple of years, but I'll sure invite you.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Dry mouth, constipation, rash, increased heart rate, blurred vision, glaucoma, urinary retention, chest pain, vomiting, arthritis, myalgia, epistaxis, laryngitis, rhinitis, cynasitis, and respiratory infections. Time's up! The answer, from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals: Spiriva, to breathe easier.

Over the years, I've interviewed well over 100 experts from the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Today, we add number one hundred and whatever, nineteen perhaps, with our introduction of the former Major in the Baltimore Police Department, Mister Mike Hilliard. I'm asking him why is he speaking out now.

MIKE HILLIARD: It took me a while to get there. I, probably the first experience I had with this idea was when then, in the 1980s, I think it was 1982, that the then-mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke, came out and said we needed to have a national conversation about the way we deal with narcotics [sic: it was in 1988, at a speech before the US Conference of Mayors]. And, at that point I was a sergeant in the Baltimore Police Department, and to be perfectly honest with you, I thought he'd lost his mind.

And -- but, the more over the years I've thought about the issue, and looked at it, the more and more I've realized that what we're doing is not working. It's totally counterproductive. It's having a negative effect on society and law enforcement, and we needed to find another option. And I think this is the other option.

And just to add, I was at a public event with Mayor Schmoke about six months ago, where I had the honor to introduce LEAP's executive director, Neill Franklin, but Mayor Schmoke was a speaker, and I got up and publicly apologized to Mayor Schmoke for thinking he was out of his mind when he proposed that idea. And he got a kick out of it, and accepted my apology, so.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. And how long have you been with the organization, sir?

MIKE HILLIARD: Not long. Candidly, at the event I just talked about, in my current position, I work for a nonprofit in northeast Baltimore, helping communities deal with quality of life issues. One of them's crime prevention. And my organization, and another nonprofit in north Baltimore, well, actually two other nonprofits, another one in northeast Baltimore and one in north Baltimore, pretty much annually up this year have put on the North Baltimore Public Safety Summit.

And the last summit we had, we invited Mayor Schmoke, who's now President Schmoke of the University of Baltimore, and Neill Franklin to speak, and kind of the focus, at that point, of that public safety summit, was treatment instead of incarceration. And so I listened to Mayor Schmoke, and then I introduced Neill, sat down, and I started listening to Neill. And this is an issue I'd kind of thought about, I'd never really talked to anybody about. And as I was listening to Neill Franklin, our executive director, I kind of thought, this is ridiculous. So I pulled my phone out and I joined LEAP during that conference.

And, so, honestly, I've only been a LEAP speaker for about the last two to three months, when -- it originated because, a president of a community association up here asked me to come speak to his meeting about you know, the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the legalization, control, and regulation of narcotics. So, he put me through a quick process, and allowed me to do it. So I've spoken several times since then.

DEAN BECKER: Folks, we're speaking with a retired major from the Baltimore Police Department, Mister Mike Hilliard. Mike, I've been trying to educate, embolden, everyone I can, and it seems that I did have some luck with our new DA, sheriff, and police chief, or somebody opened the door, because they're beginning to sound a lot like LEAP speakers. That's not an aberration, or not nearly as much as it used to be, is it?

MIKE HILLIARD: No, not at all. More and more people are realizing that the war on drugs has been unsuccessful, that prohibition doesn't work, and, honestly, the couple of times I've spoken, I've been surprised at the number of people who will approach me after a meeting and say it makes sense, or, in some cases, they've seen me at another venue and approached me, and said, would you, you know, would you talk about that we need to really consider legalization, control, and regulation of narcotics, really makes sense, because it's not working. It takes up incredible police resources, that could be used for far better things, in fighting crime and preventing crime. And, it's just having an incredibly negative effect on the society as a whole.

So, no, more and more people are thinking that way, and particularly in law enforcement. And, again, I've said, you know, in the 1980s, when a prominent politician suggested we have a national conversation about the war on drugs, my thought was, you're out of your mind. But, you know, I have totally changed my opinion on the whole question, in the last 20 to 30 years. So, hopefully, more and more people are coming to the realization this is not working.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Mike. And, yeah, I think there is that, if he said it, I can say it, kind of attitude, that people have kind of carried this inside, been unwilling to say what they knew to be true, but for fear of repercussion. Your thought, sir.

MIKE HILLIARD: I think in a lot of ways, it may have been the way I kind of approached the issue. When I was, years ago, when I was in law enforcement, it was something I just didn't think was feasible. And, even towards the end of my career, and now my career with a nonprofit in northeast Baltimore, I started to think about it, and I literally got to the point where, if somebody asked me what did I think about the legalization, control, and regulation of narcotics, my response was pretty much, I'm not going to argue with you.

I wasn't an advocate at that point. And then, but, when, you know, when you really are confronted with the issue, either by a LEAP speaker, or somebody who truly believes that prohibition is not working, it really makes you think about what's happening, and, I think it's making people change their minds about this issue.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Friends, once again we're speaking with retired police Major Mike Hilliard. Mike, part of the writing I've seen about your work talks about the violence factor, where the violence began to ratchet up, and what compels it to continue escalating. Do you want to talk about that, please?

MIKE HILLIARD: When I was on the street, in the early 1970s in Baltimore, the drug trade was controlled pretty much by two people: a guy named Maurice "Peanut" King on the east side, and a guy named "Little" Melvin Williams on the west side of town. And, they were honestly good businessmen, and what they realized is, if violence escalated, it was going to draw police attention to their operations, so, they exercised a great deal of control within their organizations to ensure that didn't happen.

When a joint federal state and city task force came in, and literally took them all out and sent them away to prison for years, what we ended up with was a bunch of their lieutenants literally going to war over turf. And that has never stopped. And, as -- I've heard Neill point out is that, you know, if Mike and Dean are involved in drug dealing, and Mike has infringed on Dean's turf, Dean doesn't call the attorney up, his attorney up, and Mike calls his attorney up, and they sit down and negotiate how to do it. The way they deal with it is to kill one another.

But one of the things that I like to point out is that I think the illegal narcotics business is literally capitalism at its purest. It's high risk, low overhead, high profit. And, if it's a capitalistic enterprise, the law of supply and demand is applicable. So, it doesn't matter what you do with the supplier, if the demand is there, somebody will come in to meet the supply, and that's another cardinal rule of capitalism. If the demand's there, and the supplier for some reason no longer exists, somebody will step up and meet that demand.

So, that's what constantly happens in the narcotics business. Because if you eliminate the supplier, you never really deal with the demand. So really what we need to do, from my perspective, is, number one, we need to legalize, regulate it, and control it. And number two, we need to put considerably more money into treatment than we do, so that when somebody wants treatment on demand, they can get it, because right now, there are not enough slots to provide treatment on demand.

I really think the way to deal with it is a two-fold approach, which is, you legalize it, you control it, you regulate it. And then you put a lot of money into treatment, and I've left one out. And the other thing is, you put -- you start educating. And I don't mean the education we did years ago, with DARE. It's -- you start educating children early about the dangers of drugs, what they can do to your body, and particularly -- in Switzerland and Portugal, that has been incredibly successful in reducing the demand for drugs, or reducing the number of young people who then become involved in it.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, Mike, you know, the heck of it is, you know, you're talking about this huge, global, you know, marketplace, and, you know, Amway be damned, folks don't realize, the black market in drugs is the world's largest multi-level marketing organization. Isn't it?

MIKE HILLIARD: Yeah. It certainly is. And it's probably the most profitable.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly. Well, Mike, I thank you for your time, I wish you great success. Looks like 2017's going to be a year with great potential for progress. Right?

MIKE HILLIARD: Well, I hope so.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Well, once again, folks, that was Mike Hilliard, a retired major from the Baltimore Police Department. And, I urge you to check out the website of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition: LEAP.cc.

DEAN BECKER: On Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2017, some 4,200 marijuana cigarettes will be handed out to spectators there to watch the proceeding, thanks to the help of Mister Adam Eidinger and friends.

ADAM EIDINGER: Well, what's going to happen on Inauguration Day is that we're going to raise the issue of federal marijuana legalization, and we need to get the federal government to change its policies by giving away legal, home grown marijuana, from District residents to the masses, to anyone over 21 years of age. That's our plan.

DEAN BECKER: And, this is, again, this is in Washington, DC, where possession is itself legal, and giving this away, is it, also legal, correct?

ADAM EIDINGER: That's right. It's something that we passed by voter initiative in 2014, and we've defended the initiative, the new law, against Congressional interference. We're obviously very concerned with the new administration that things could change, and, while we've heard pretty good comments out of Donald Trump, we haven't heard very good comments out of Jeff Sessions, his pick for Attorney General.

And we're really concerned that Jeff Sessions is out of touch and just a terrible pick for Attorney General, so we've been fighting that, and now we decided to sort of up the game and make this a bigger issue by giving away cannabis and getting the media engaged, getting the general public engaged, giving them something to participate in, because we're tired of no action. We want some action, we want things to get done.

And, it didn't get done under Barack Obama. We made some progress, but overall it's been a disappointment, and we're not done fighting for approximately half a million people a year that go to jail for marijuana. Nobody should go to jail, no kid should be taken away, no family should be broken up, no doors should be broken down. And that's all happening because marijuana's illegal.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, we've been speaking with Mister Adam Eidinger. He's based in Washington, DC, where pot is legal. Any closing thoughts, or a website you might want to share, Adam?

ADAM EIDINGER: Yeah. People can check in at DCMJ.org, and see what our schedule is. We want people from all across America. From Texas, wearing a cowboy hat, you're welcome to come to Washington for the inauguration. And you don't have to bring marijuana, we'll give it to you when you get here.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, as we wrap it up, I have to ask once again, won't you help lift this evil curse? When the police chief, sheriff, and district attorney of Houston, Texas, are standing with us in calling for change, don't be afraid. Stand up. Speak up. Do your part. And again, I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.