To Be Blunt: The Professional Cannabis Business Podcast

081 The Future of Cannabis with The Father of the Legal Cannabis Industry Steve DeAngelo

January 03, 2022 Shayda Torabi Season 3 Episode 81
To Be Blunt: The Professional Cannabis Business Podcast
081 The Future of Cannabis with The Father of the Legal Cannabis Industry Steve DeAngelo
Show Notes Transcript

“You have people in our scene now who are motivated not primarily by love of cannabis, but primarily by love of money. And that creates a real conflict, right? Because I think that one of the lessons that cannabis teaches us is to value love over money.” - Steve DeAngelo

Welcome back to the To Be Blunt podcast! In this episode, Shayda Torabi welcomes Steve DeAngelo, to discuss cannabis through the years and the coming future, expound his thoughts on societal changes, and remind us of the essence of the advocacy - promoting love and harmony.


[00:01 – 05:20] Hit the Ground Running for 2022

[05:21– 10:04] Heightened Senses and Elevated Spirituality through Cannabis

[10:05 – 19:42] Massive Global Changes in the Cannabis Landscape on the Economy

[19:43 – 37:19]  How Prohibition Causes More Harm - Lack of Quality Control

[37:20 – 47:30] Applying Pressure on America Derived from Global Cannabis Approaches

[47:29 – 01:00:07] Mindful Actions towards Accessibility and ESG Initiatives

[01:00:08 – 01:02:50] Food for Thought: How do you become a better advocate for the plant?


Steve DeAngelo is a globally recognized cannabis leader who was dubbed “the father of the legal industry” by former Speaker of the California Assembly Willie Brown. As a lifelong activist, author, educator, investor, and entrepreneur, he has spent more than four decades on the front lines of the cannabis reform movement. His most notable business achievements include co-founding Harborside-one of the first six dispensaries licensed in the United States-now a publicly-traded company on the Canadian Securities Exchange; Steep Hill Laboratory, the first cannabis analytics company; and Arcview Group, the first dedicated cannabis investment network. He is author of The Cannabis Manifesto and an originator of the wellness approach to understanding cannabis. Media projects include the starring role in Weed Wars, produced by the Discovery Channel in 2011; Ask Steve DeAngelo, available on; and extensive appearances on CNN, FOX, MSNBC, CNBC, and The New York Times. Steve speaks widely on the topic of justice and believes that a profitable, ethical, politically engaged industry will be the most powerful force in spreading cannabis reform to every corner of the planet. As Founder of the Last Prisoner Project, he will not rest and will not stop until the last cannabis prisoner is free.

Connect with Steve

Visit and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn @steve.deangelo

Shayda Torabi has been called one of the most influential Women in WordPress and now she’s one of the women leading the cannabis reformation conversation building one of Texas’ premier CBD brands. She's currently the CEO and Co-Founder of RESTART CBD, a female-run education first CBD wellness brand. And has formerly held marketing positions at WP Engine and WebDevStudios. Shayda is the host of a podcast for cannabis marketers called To Be Blunt, where she interviews top cannabis brands on their most successful marketing initiatives. When Shayda's not building her cannabiz in Texas, you can find her on the road exploring the best hikes and spots for vegan ice cream. Follow Shayda at @theshaydatorabi

Key Quote:

"People who want to get into the cannabis industry, who have hustle, who are willing to work hard, and be entrepreneurial, should not have artificial barriers placed in their way.” - Steve DeAngelo

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Steve DeAngelo  0:00  
Given what we've learned in states that have legalized thus far and some of the bad things that we've seen happen, what do we need to be concerned about what we need to think about as the federal government moves towards legalizing, and believe it or not, there is now a pretty widespread opinion amongst many parts of our movement, that federal legalization should be slowed, that it should not be an urgent goal of our movement, that it would be better for the social equity community for small and medium sized growers, entrepreneurs, to have an opportunity to be able to grow at the state level before the national market is opened up. Because once the national market is opened up, you're going to see a flood of capital and very large corporations coming in who are going to potentially displace people who are already here.

Announcer  1:02  
You're listening to two b one b podcast for cannabis marketers, where your host Shayda Torabi and her guests are trailblazing the path to marketing educating and professionalizing cannabis light one up and listen up. Here's your host Shayda Torabi.

Shayda Torabi  1:29  
Hello, and welcome back to the to be blonde podcast. I'm your host Shayda Torabi, cannabis business owner and brand marketer. And I can officially say we are in the year 2022. And we're kicking off season three of the to be blunt podcast. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, regardless of how you spent it and were able to find some peace and joy in the downtime. Or maybe you were like me, and you worked mostly through the holidays. In that case, I hope that you find yourself caught up and prepared for the first week of the new year. As regards to me, despite working this whole time, I definitely did not get as caught up as I could have been. But I feel like I'm hitting the ground running and really grateful to be kicking off the new year with you, my dear listener, and I'm eager and excited to see what this year unfolds for me, for you for this podcast and ultimately for our industry. Okay, getting right to business today. My guest for most of you needs no introduction. He's iconic and one of the leaders pioneering the cannabis movement here in America. Today for the podcast, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Steve DeAngelo. I had his brother and business partner Andrew DeAngelo on the podcast last year, but got to connect with Steve at MJ unpacked back in Vegas, where he was representing his nonprofit, the last prisoner project, and I was so grateful that he graciously accepted an invitation to participate on the podcast. Steve, his bio for reference or for those of you who are just curious about the breadth of his experience, states Steve DeAngelo is an American Cannabis rights activist and advocate for cannabis reform in the United States. D'Angelo is a globally recognized cannabis leader who was dubbed the father of the legal cannabis industry. he co founded several iconic cannabis businesses and organizations harbor side one of the first six dispensaries licensed in the United States. steep hill laboratory, the first dedicated cannabis lab, the ArcView Group, the first cannabis investment firm, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the industry's first trade association, as well as the founder of the last prisoner project, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cannabis criminal justice reform. I really tried to focus this interview on a typical questions. Steve is so well known and public speaks frequently so I really wanted to take advantage of bending his ear to learn specific answers to questions I know that I had about our industry and different markets to gauge what Steve's perspective might be and what his thoughts are. He was candid, kind hearted and shared truthfully about areas that this industry has to repair as well as the age old question when and what is in the way of federal legalization. I found this conversation comforting as well as validating because I find myself sometimes in confusion, based on what my perception of the direction things might be going is and so to hear from Steve himself, someone who spends A lot of time in many areas and aspects of the industry was just such a treat to learn from. And my hope is that this episode is equally transformative for you and gives you a good foundation to approach cannabis in 2022 with. So with that said, let's please welcome Steve onto the show and join me by lighting one up.

Steve DeAngelo  5:21  
My name is Steve DeAngelo. I am a lifelong cannabis activist, entrepreneur, investor educator. I haven't been an investor my whole life that came a little bit later on. I started with cannabis, when I fell in love with the plant at the age of 13. I was at a friend's house, I smoked a joint, nothing happened or apparently nothing happened. I'm walking home my way home takes me through a park. I'm a 13 year old kid, this is a park that's just like a shortcut. For me, I run through it several times a day, it's close to my house, I usually don't notice anything that's going on in that park until this day, walking through the park and I look up and I see the sun filtering through the leaves of the trees. And I just notice it in a way that I never had before. And I noticed the sun is actually shining through the leaves and I can see the veins of the leaves. And that sun is projected on the path that I'm walking on. And there's dried leaves on that path and my feet step on those leaves and they crumble. And I can smell the aroma of those leaves in my nose. And then I feel that sun, that same sun on the back of my neck. And I hear in the background, the gurgling of a Brook. And then I feel the sweat beginning to rise on the back of my neck on my forehead. And there's just this one moment where it's all connected for me, the brook, the sun, the leaves my sweat, my neck, it's all part of the same thing that's working together. And I can feel that in a way that I've never felt before that I'm a part of the web of life and part of nature. And it was this incredible experience for me, I walked out of that park at that time, not I think fully appreciating what had happened. But I knew that it was profound. And I knew that it was great. And I knew that this plant was always going to be in my life. Looking backwards. I recognize it as my first real spiritual experience. My spirituality has taken a nature plant based direction ever since then. But it was that was really the first moment for me. And I grew up in a family that my parents had been civil rights activist. I grew up in Washington, DC, this is the late 1960s, early 1970s. Civil rights is still alive, the anti war movement against the word of Vietnam is at its height at that stage of the game. There's demonstrations every weekend in Washington DC on one cause or another. And so it's very natural to me that when I see something is wrong to stand up and start doing something about it. It was obvious to me after that, really, you know, Tiffany have a first experience with cannabis. I knew that it was a good plan. I knew that it was supposed to be in my life. And I knew that the laws were wrong. But I didn't want to be a criminal. I didn't want to be hunted for the rest of my life for doing something that I knew was something that was good for me that was good to have in my life. And so that's when I decided that I was going to be a cannabis activist. I think by the time I actually got home from that wall, I was already thinking about how we were going to make cannabis legal.

Shayda Torabi  8:44  
It's such a powerful story. And before we were recording, of course and I was kind of expressing to you, you have such a colored history and really deep history with cannabis not only from you know your personal experience, but how that personal experience has translated into the you know, maybe not so legal industry, the culture of cannabis into this now, I always refer to it as cannabis is going mainstream. And so there's this lifetime of cannabis that is really shortened if you really look at kind of where cannabis has kind of where cannabis was born in the United States especially, and to see all these different points of interaction, whether it's through your own personal experience with the plant to watching your parents and kind of your geographical location, you know, dictate a little bit of what you were witnessing and watching. I like learning where my guests kind of come from that perspective because I think it's important for the listeners to see themselves a little bit and also maybe reflect independently of, you know, I didn't grow up with that same baseline family experience in Washington DC. I grew up in Austin, Texas, so maybe not so cannabis friendly, especially even presently today. And so my you know, experience has been shaped a little bit differently, but I think we can both kind of sit and meet in the middle and both have you know, this passion for cannabis that has led to our involvement in the industry. And so with that, you know, I wanted to kind of kick off with the first question. You talked a lot about the journey from the counterculture to the mainstream. In fact, I just was prepping for the interview and was watching an episode or an episode of Talk You did rather, that was recorded with South by Southwest, actually, which took a hiatus with COVID. But I think it's coming back strong again, this next 2022. But the talk you were talking about was about counterculture to the mainstream. And so I was wondering if you could lay the foundation for our conversation, what does the cannabis industry looks like, from your perspective? Over the last, you know, let's say 10 or 15 years or so, really, from the beginning of maybe when you started to see California opening up and founding harbourside to presently now what the industry looks like, from your perspective?

Steve DeAngelo  10:54  
Well, there's been a really massive change in that period of time. I in 2006, I received one of the first six licenses that were issued anywhere in the United States for commercial cannabis activity that was a medical cannabis license, which was issued by the city of Oakland was the first jurisdiction to issue those kinds of licenses. And now, you know, here we are 15 years later, almost 16 years later. And there's this huge global industry that where you have companies with, you know, multiple billions of dollars valuations that are traded on public exchanges. When I started in 2006, there was only one legal cannabis market in the entire world. And that was the state of California and it was limited to medical cannabis. Well, now we have legal cannabis and legal cannabis commerce in a majority of US states, some are still only medical, many are fully adult use. You have completely legal adult use cannabis in Canada, you have completely legal adult use cannabis in Mexico. So you know, right now, the federal government of the United States is sort of the lone holdout in North America hanging on to an unscientific and outdated cannabis policy, we have created in that period of time, more than a quarter of a million new legal cannabis jobs in this country. That's more than coal mining. So we have created a amazing new industry in a very short period of time and changed many laws along the way. So it's, you know, that's the good part of the equation. And I'm just thrilled to see that, you know, sometimes people ask me, how I feel about the mainstreaming of cannabis, and corporations getting involved in cannabis. And you know, the answers, the answer is really complex, I have a lot of mixed feelings. You know, on the one hand, my mission, my basic mission in life, is to make sure that as many people around the world have safe, legal affordable access to this plant as possible. As far as I can split this plant during the time that I have on this planet. That's what I want to do. And I don't think that happens without engaging the same mechanisms of global commerce that that move all of our other goods and services around the world. So when I see large corporations embracing cannabis for me, in a way, that's the culmination of my life's work, and like to see that, on the other hand, it's always been my hope that we would cannibalize the corporations more than the corporations would corporatize cannabis. I think that one of the unfortunate things that's happened over the course of this period of time is that as we've made it safer for people, for other people who may not care about cannabis, and may not love the plant, as passionately as the early pioneers in this industry did to come in. Well, that's what happens. You have people in our scene now who are motivated not primarily by love of cannabis, but primarily by love of money. And that creates a real conflict, right? Because I think that one of the lessons that Canopus teaches us is to value love over money. And so there's this real conflict that gets cultural conflict that gets set up. And it's been really disturbing to me to go from, you know, spending 30 or 40 years of my life talking about the benefits of this plant, the way that it can transform society that way they can help individual human beings to a situation where most of the public discourse about cannabis over the course of the last 10 years has been how much money people are making or how much money people can make. And I you know, I believe in prosperity and I believe that part of the work that we're doing with cannabis is to transform the global economy but That's just a small part of what this plant brings to us. And so, it's really been disturbing to me on many levels to see the effect that the corporatization of cannabis has had on the culture. Even more disturbing is the fact that, you know, a lot of these new people that come into cannabis are the kind of people who they can sit down at a beautifully set feast with all kinds of food on the table. And they want it all for themselves. They don't even want to leave a crumb on the table for anybody else. And so, all over really all over the world, but especially in my home state of California, the people who built this industry, who carried this plant through the long dark years of prohibition, and suffered for it and sacrificed were, are now being squeezed out of the industry. And that's tragic. And it's enraging. And I think that as a community, the cannabis community should not allow that to happen. Yeah, you

Shayda Torabi  16:00  
definitely express things that I wrestle with myself, I haven't been in the industry, but it as a fraction of how the time that you have been involved but in my short lifetime, from transitioning from a cannabis consumer to a cannabis business owner to an advocate and an activist and trying to be involved in my home state and seeing Texas hopefully see the light of day and come to improve our access to this plant. It's been really heartbreaking I think to be a little you know, emotional about it, because people come to me a lot of times, and I own a CBD brand here in Austin and they're you know, Hey Shayda Are you going to transition to a medical you know, dispensary when they expand medical Are you going to open up to or don't use recreation dispensary. And, and I almost know too much now from having all these conversations that my observation is every state so far has had a different program rollout. You look at Oklahoma, their medical and there, I just was in Oklahoma last this past weekend for the cowboy cup. And they have I heard 8000 licenses is now up to 9000 licenses. And then you have Florida who is limited licensure and equally medical, but their vertical, integrated, required. And so you have to control every step of that, you know, seed to sale. And so I'm here as this very passionate trying to be as educated as possible, trying to educate others as much as possible cannabis individual, and I'm just, you know, left kind of gobsmacked, like, I don't even know how Texas is going to legalize and what their program is even going to afford me to be able to step into and do and so, you know, it just is I always want to hope that I'm wrong, I definitely want to be a part of helping change things, which is why I try to have these podcast conversations and educate the community and educate consumers through my business. But that, that, you know, reality is always just kind of floating around because I'm watching it like you're expressing what's happening to California, you're seeing it at a state to state but certainly at a national level. And so that's where, again, I always just try to exist with these conversations is not to scare people, but to really bring the truth to light. And this is kind of presently what we're facing. And yeah, how do we have conversations to start to etch away at that so that maybe we can see cannabis in our lifetime in a safe, equitable manner for everybody to have access to it, of course, without you know, these repercussions that come in the form of limited licensure, or the justice reform and everything like that. So everything you're saying is very, very real. And I just wanted to kind of highlight that. And to kind of transition a little bit, you know, you have a podcast as well. And you call it Radio Free cannabis. And in one of the recent episodes, the subject was how evident the harms of prohibition outweigh the harms of cannabis. And just from my personal experience, again, you know, I'm watching these laws transition in Texas, we're navigating currently a smokable hemp ban. You know, with that, there's been I think, you know, proceeding that the vape crisis, to me, if you would just legalize and regulate and have better standards on testing, then we could have these products and not push it into I don't want to say the black market in illicit market is all bad. But I see a lot of bad business happening under the guise of you know, it's not being regulated. And so I understand where if we had better regulation, and we brought everything aboveboard that we could have maybe safer, better access for everybody, but I'm just curious when you did that episode, and just from your experience as well, what you really mean when you say you know, the prohibition is causing more harm than actually cannabis itself?

Steve DeAngelo  20:04  
Well, we could do several hours on that question, because prohibition is so harmful. It's so devastating in so many ways. But in that issue in that episode, we were really focusing largely on the consumer protection aspects of prohibition. So, you know, we have a substance, which is a product, which is a product for human consumption, which is used, you know, the United Nations says that there's 270 million of us around the world who consume cannabis regularly, we all know that's an undercount by a factor of three or four, right? There's something probably more like a billion people on this planet who consume cannabis. And very few of them have access to to a safe supply of cannabis. Because for the most part, cannabis is still not regulated is still not legal in most markets. So it's not tested. Now, you know, you think about any other human product, you think about our food supply, you think about our water supply, you think about our supply of medicine, you even think about things like our bedsheets and our pajamas and stuff like that, that gets close to us that we're not ingesting into our bodies. And there are standards, there's testing that's required to make sure that when something is put into the mainstream of commerce, that it's safe for human consumption. And that of course doesn't exist with cannabis for the most part. So we saw really dramatic evidence of this a couple of years ago, when we had the vape pen crisis, where people died from consuming cannabis vape pens that were contaminated. All of those contaminated pens are sold on the legacy traditional underground cannabis market where testing is not available. Well now. It's gotten to be even really more disturbing. I'm sorry to have to report this. It pains me. I didn't really believe it when I first heard it. But I've now have two confirmed reports of fentanyl laced cannabis being sold in the metropolitan New York market samples that have been seized samples that have been tested. Confirmed laboratory tests of fentanyl laced cannabis, these so far has sickened a lot of people who smoke. There have been no fatalities that we know of yet. But just imagine what would happen if somebody got an ounce of this fentanyl laced wheat and they didn't know that it was laced, and they cooked it into a batch of brownies. And they took it to a wedding or a birthday party. We are that close to a mass casualty event. It could happen in Texas. It could happen in California where two thirds of the market three quarters that market is still unregulated because they have a broken regulatory system in California. It could happen in New York where even though cannabis is legal, there is no tested cannabis, anywhere available on the New York market. So there's this imminent public health and safety threat that we're all facing right now. And it shouldn't be you know, the scientific evidence about the safety of cannabis is overwhelming. Nobody anywhere has ever died from ingesting cannabis and not even our worst critics not even the most unscientific propagandists dare to say that cannabis can kill you. But we know the fentanyl can kill you. And we know that the kinds of things that were in the vape pens can kill you. So so you know now we see a very clear example of how the harms of prohibition outweigh any. I mean, there are no harms of cannabis, you can't say that they outweigh the harm or no harms of cannabis. But prohibition now kills people. And we can see very clearly that it kills people and we're just, you know, potentially hours or days away from a mass casualty event. How does that stop? How do we stop that there's only one way to stop that. That's to make cannabis legal now completely everywhere. And furthermore, to make it legal in a way that we end up with a unified single rational legal market. I mentioned California, what's happened there is just a travesty. Cannabis was over regulated and overtaxed to such a degree that that in California now the legacy unregulated market is three times the size of the legal market. And the reason for that is that if you go into a legal dispensary in California, you will pay twice the price that you would pay on the street outside, and the quality that you get will probably be lower. And so in California today, the only people stupid enough to buy weed in a legal dispensary, or people who are tourists who are coming from, you know, out of the country that don't know how to get into the legacy market, or people who can't figure out How to Buy weed from their next door neighbors at half the price on either side of them. Right. So it's not just enough to legalize cannabis everywhere, it has to be legalized in a ways that we have one unified rational legal market where all the cannabis that's consumed by people is tested and is safe.

Shayda Torabi  25:20  
It's devastating to hear that I mean, you're confronting a lot of the comments and thoughts that I've personally been fortunate to be privy to. And then, you know, networking in the industry, you know, things I've been a part of what you're saying, is the reality. And I just don't think a lot of people are really aware of that. And kind of reflecting on my own journey. You know, when I was just a consumer, of course, I wanted legalization. I wanted it in a very compact mind view of, I like weed, I want to be able to buy it. And that, you know, makes sense. Now, as someone who's in the industry, and you just articulated in teed up what was going to be my next point in question. You know, as you have more states coming on board, they're legalizing. My observation is every state has a different program so far. So you just mentioned New York, because I mean, you mentioned New York being a state that recently legalized I know, you spend a lot of time in New York market. You mentioned California, where you've grown up and invest a lot of energy into that market. To me to have federal legalization, there has to be standards, right. There has to be standards on for sure. dosing, labeling packaging, but I think it stems from testing and you mentioned testing, and it's interesting, I think it was two days ago, I just saw an article, the state of California is going to put forth a standardization for testing. And I don't know really what that is going to entail in terms of cuz I think people have been trying for standardization, right? It just seems like maybe we can't all agree or get along. Even in the hemp industry where it's federally legal. There's so much discrepancy of certain states say, Well, you have to test within the state, some states say they don't care, you're then shipping products across state lines, I'm even having discrepancies testing Delta eight versus delta nine THC. So to me as much as we want to aspire towards the standardization, it seems maybe perhaps a little bit further away. And in that case, I think when we aspire towards legalization, it might not be just hey, I want to legalize this President's going to legalize it, we're going to flip a switch. It really takes all of these states to agree to a program, labeling, packaging, dosing testing. And so I'm just curious, based on what you just shared, and with California's recent decision to standardize, I know you also helped found one of the first cannabis specific testing facilities steep hill in California. It is that is, I know, it's possible, but kind of from your perspective, what does that actually look like as we try to go towards true legalization? Do you see federally them saying, well, we need one program, we need one standardization of testing, labeling everything? Or is it going to be a little bit more piecemeal, as we actually look towards what federal legalization looks like?

Steve DeAngelo  28:16  
Well, this is a subject of intense debate with your circles of the movement right now. Right, given what we've learned in states that have legalized thus far and some of the bad things that we've seen happen, what do we need to be concerned about what we need to think about as the federal government moves towards legalizing, and believe it or not, there is now a pretty widespread opinion amongst many parts of our movement, that federal legalization should be slowed, that it should not be an urgent goal of our movement, that it would be better for the social equity community for small and medium sized growers, entrepreneurs, to have an opportunity to be able to grow at the state level before the national market is opened up. Because once the national market is opened up, you're going to see a flood of capital and very large corporations coming in, who are going to potentially displace people who are already here. So there's a large body of opinion in our movement now that says slow it down. Let it happen on a state by state basis. For me, even though I'm deeply in sympathy with the idea that we need to create a diverse cannabis industry that spreads prosperity broadly that we need to use the legalization of cannabis as an opportunity to redistribute some of the wealth that has been mis distributed in the United States. It's very hard for me to wrap myself around the idea of slowing down federal legalization. I've spent a half century trying to push federal legalization forward as quickly as I can. And the reason why is I lived under Ronald Reagan, I've lived under George Bush, I've lived under Presidents who used the federal laws against cannabis as a massive tool of oppression. I've seen what those laws have done to black and brown communities, it's very hard for me to accept the idea that we would slow down doing that, because who knows who the next President is going to be and what they're going to do? And are they going to pardon cannabis prisoners? Or are they going to increase the penalties? Are they going to increase in force? Are they going to declare a new campaign on us? So I have a lot of mixed feelings about that question. I think that that what's really important as we move towards federal legalization, is that we really do consider all the lessons that we've learned at the state level, and that we make sure that we incorporate them in a way that builds the kind of industry that we want. And for me, that's not just a new industry that looks like every other industry in this country around the world. Cannabis is special. Cannabis teaches us lessons. Those of us who love this plant, have welcomed her into our lives, need to take those lessons seriously. And make sure that they are manifested in the industry that we're building. And those include things like radical inclusion, you know, when a circle of cannabis people is passing a joint around, somebody that you don't know walks up to the edge of the circle, you don't like close ranks and huddle and not give them the joy, you open the circle up and you pass them the joint. That's what we do everywhere in the world. Because we believe in radical inclusion. This plant brings people all races and religions and economic classes together into circles of friendship and into circles of love. And we have to make sure that the industry that we built reflects that and that it's as diverse as our community is, we have to make sure that it's an industry that respects nature, you sit down and you smoke a joint you sit underneath a tree, you know that you don't want that tree to be cut down to make packages to package your cannabis. Right. So let's take that lesson that cannabis teaches us and insist that it be manifested in the industry that we're building, take these lessons seriously. Hold the feet of the cannabis companies to the fire right, the default behavior of any corporation is going to be to prioritize the making of profit over any other activity. And unless cannabis consumers understand where their cannabis is coming from, who's producing it, how the workers are being treated? Is that cannabis being grown in a sustainable way? What are the people who are making money off of it dealing with the profits that they are making? Those are the kinds of questions that we need to ask to make sure that we got an industry that's worthy of this plan.

Shayda Torabi  33:09  
Hello, just want to take a quick moment to thank my sponsor and full disclosure, my company restart CBD, restart CBD is a brand that I built with my sister. So we are family owned and a women owned, we do operate a brick and mortar in Austin. So if you ever find yourself in Central Texas, we'd love for you to come say hi. But we also ship nationwide and we carry a wide range of CBD products. We really care about this plant, we really care about educating our customers, this show would not be possible without their support. So please go check us out at restart and use code to be blunt for $5 off your next purchase. Thanks. And let's go back to the show. Yes, he very much Express. Again, I think sentiments that are it was a hard question. And I know that there's not one answer, right? There's not one way to dice and slice this because there's so much give and take I mean you just even bringing up packaging, right? We know that that has been something that this industry through the way the laws have been structured to you know, quote, unquote, protect maybe children with child protective packaging, or just the constant shift of what needs to be included on a label. I mean, I've talked to so many brands who, you know, laws change and we got to scrap all this labeling and packaging and we got to completely redo it and it's just creating more waste. Right. And so that absolutely has to be dealt with and addressed as we move forward. You talked about the social reform and justice that is so much a part of this conversation that I reflect on a lot to have just wow cannabis is going into the light but how many people are still Being caught up in this chaos of different law state to state, even from a federal perspective as well just how it's being adopted and who it's actually being inclusive for and for whom and for when. And so it isn't an easy conversation. But it is something that I think to be conscious about, right we have to talk about these we have to come together as a community and you articulated that really great as well. And you know, it is true anytime you're in a, you know, group of people who are passing and join and someone passes that are joined to the new person who walks up, you don't shun them, you welcome them. And so I, I appreciate that nod because I, again, I'm just a girl who grew up in Texas buying you know, cannabis from whoever was friendly enough to sell it to me, fingers crossed, it wasn't laced with anything, I was really naive in my early days. Now I'm a little bit more mature, maybe a little too mature, like I mentioned earlier, just because I now I understand sometimes, again, too much the underbelly of this industry, as you welcome in big corporation, big money. But I interviewed someone a couple weeks ago, when they had an interesting perspective that I'll share. It was just you know, as much as we want to kind of resist what's happening. Sometimes maybe those bigger corporations can help influence if you can communicate with them and get them kind of on board with the mission. Right? So it's maybe not all bad. It's just, I don't know, it's hard for me, because I'm like, I want to just inch things forward versus like I was mentioned, just like flipping a switch of legalization. But kind of on that vein, another question I was going to ask you, Germany just fully legalized. And I don't think a lot of people realize this, but My uncle lives in the Netherlands. So I grew up going to Amsterdam very frequently as a young person and into her adult years. And so I've been very fortunate to get to experience marijuana in the Netherlands, most people don't realize the Netherlands is not actually legal. It's not a legal industry. And so in terms of Europe, Germany is now the first country to really come forward and actually open up an adult use recreation program, I don't know much about what their program looks like. But you also mentioned, Canada obviously being so open Mexico being more open than America, as we see these other countries push towards legalization and adoption. Do you think that's putting pressure on America to want to open up more federal legalization is that maybe like, cuz I think from a Texas perspective, Texas is very much like, we don't care what you guys are doing, we're gonna do it our way on our terms. So I'm assuming America has a little bit of that attitude. They don't really care what our neighbors are doing. I don't really care what's happening across the pond. But I can't help but feel that that global pressure is building and so kind of what has been that experience, from your observation, as we're seeing more countries legalize, how does that play back into America's legalization journey?

Steve DeAngelo  37:56  
Well, you're absolutely right. Unfortunately, on the world stage, the United States being one of the most powerful empires on the planet two does have what you could describe as a Texan attitude, which is, you know, it's my way or the highway, we don't really care what you all think we got our way of doing things. And we're going to keep on doing it. In this case, the way of doing things stay, as you know, maintaining this completely unscientific, outdated policy that was that was implemented 100 years ago, in the beginning at the state level, in order to oppress black and brown communities and people. So how is it playing out? It's not playing out well, right. Unfortunately, we've got this president, who's in office right now, who managed to fool a lot of people when he was running for president doing things like saying, well, nobody should be in prison for cannabis charges. Well, then explain to me, Mr. Biden, why there's 40,000 prisoners on cannabis charges in the United States today, many 1000s of them in federal prisons that you control, Mr. President, you could release all of them tomorrow with the stroke of a pen. So if nobody belongs in prison on cannabis charges, how come you're keeping 1000s of people in there on cannabis charges? This guy is a total disaster on cannabis. One of the things that's happened, happened about six months ago didn't get a whole lot of publicity that it should have. But the Biden won White House went to CES in the early days in the White House, they went to 25 of their young staffers. Then they said we want you all to fill out a questionnaire on your cannabis use. As long as you fill it out. Truthfully, there's not going to be any negative repercussions. We just want to know. So, you know, being trusting and like they just want to make the president happy and work for him. And you know, they're cannabis people. So that kind of trusting people anyhow, they fill out the forums. Five of them get fired. immediately, including people who had government careers of 10 and 12 years, right, the rest of them are informed that they won't be fired. But they can never, ever come to the White House in person to work, they must always for the rest of their employment only work from home. So explain this attitude to me what it's like we got germs, or cooties, or something that are gonna rub off on your furniture. Or maybe you just fear the fact that there's people who have enough independence of mind to consume cannabis to be there and the White House with you. But whatever it is, it betrays a contempt for cannabis people, which is completely and entirely unacceptable. And then you've got Kamala Harris by his side, who, you know, made a big deal about talking about how she was blowing weed while she was in college, listening to rap songs that hadn't even been written when she was in college. And, you know, this is a woman who was responsible for the prosecution and imprisonment of 1000s of Californians on cannabis charges, who, when she ran for attorney general, she made a lot of nice sounding words to us in the cannabis community. So like fools, we gave her dollars we helped three got elected. And when the federal government attacked cannabis in California in 2011, and vowed to close down the whole industry, what did Kamal Harris do? She laughed publicly on TV, that was the only response that she had was to laugh about it. So unfortunately, we're not going to be able to expect anything from this administration, other than what we've gotten from them thus far. And if we're going to see any kind of federal motion during this administration, it's only because we've dragged them kicking and screaming into the future and against their will. So the question becomes, you know, what's going to happen in the next presidential administration? And you know, quite honestly, my fear right now, there's not going to be a next presidential administration that that we're going to be a country in the middle of a civil war, following the next attempt that we have an election, I'm really frightened. So I think that we need to continue working in our towns in our cities in our states, that we need to continue pushing forward with the recognition that we're probably not going to see much motion on the federal level. And that we've got to take things into our own hands at lower levels of government and make the change happen there for the foreseeable future.

Shayda Torabi  42:42  
I just have to say, I can't imagine that's an easy statement to kind of come out and say, I'm just I'm really appreciative of how you stepped forward and the uncomfortability and really champion the truth, as difficult as it might be on so many different levels, right. I mean, I think you articulated things that people don't really want to acknowledge part and do because I think that we have some distrust distaste and some, you know, for lack of better words, shit going on with our media. So they're not really being truthful, and how they're positioning these leaders of ours. The amount of people that I interact with who assume, or assumed this administration was going to legalize was comical, right? Is the power in the federal government to do such a thing, like you said, be able to sign and release all these cannabis prisoners is within their power, but are they going to actually do it? And how is that being communicated to We the people as they're really not making movements, and it's showing in their actions? I mean, I did hear about the staffers who got fired because of their cannabis consumption. I didn't realize the nuances and the detail, especially with some of them to be told you can keep your job but you can't come into the White House. That doesn't really make sense. I agree with you. Are they afraid that we're going to have a baggie of drugs on us and oh, no, you know, shame on us. We're the bad people. And I think for my personal position as a women in cannabis, a young woman in cannabis, I formerly come from a corporate background, so I try to professionalize cannabis in my conversations. And also I will admit, I grew up a little bit in the culture. I mean, I spent many of my teenage years hotboxing my parent's garage, and being a part of, you know, that quote unquote, negative side of what a cannabis consumer is, and they're just, you know, wasting away and they're not contributing to society. But it just is so radical to me that in 2021, almost 2022 that we have such a disconnect, I think, on both the politics, the political level of who's actually in charge and helping, you know, create change to the actual community level. Because, I mean, you said it too. And I want to reiterate that for the listeners, like, yes, you can try to elect better people in office who are in favor of your outcome and goals, which in our case, it's cannabis legalization. But you also have to be really mindful of making that change at a local level, you can't be expected of the federal government to come and just like to me, even if the federal government legalizes I believe they would still leave it up to the states to some extent. So if I'm in Texas, which I am, even if you federally legalized, Texas is going to be like, Yeah, have fun with that. And so I'm still going to have work to do locally, right? And so I always want to strive to encourage people to not get caught up in the federal legalization conversation, it is important to have the discussion and to create this perspective and try to get some sort of truth because I think, again, I talked to industry, people, I talked to consumers, and they're all like, yeah, federal legalization, I'm like, it doesn't just work like that. It's so much more nuanced. And I mean, even reflecting on some of the programs from what I've heard, and you probably know better than anybody, it appears to me, like New York's program has a much better outcome for social equity, just being equitable in general, in terms of what they're going to do for cannabis prisoners, and just how licenses are going to be acquired versus some of the stories I've heard in Chicago and Illinois, where Illinois is also promoting an equitable program, but it seems to be a quote unquote, lottery. And then is it really a lottery, are they just awarding it to people who have the, you know, the most amount of applications aka the highest, you know, amount of money invested into the program. And so it starts to demystify for me a little bit what we're actually fighting for sometimes. And so I try not to get caught up in it. But just going off of what we were just talking about, I don't know, if you have anything else, you want to maybe add around the variance in the programs as it relates to actually creating change. So it's like, okay, well, if we want to go make change, and we want to go directly to our state, our local municipality, what do we do when these states flip these programs, and some are better than others, and maybe we get caught up in believe they're better when really, they're not that great at all. But it's legal now, quote, unquote, right? So it should be make us all feel better, but it doesn't.

Steve DeAngelo  47:31  
So given that, we know that there's not going to be much federal motion for at least a few years, if you want to see change in your state, you need to study what's happened in other states, and pick the one that you think the outcome that comes closest to what you want. So we talked a little bit about Florida and Oklahoma, I think those are great examples, because they're sort of at the polar opposite different ends of the spectrum of the ways that you can create a cannabis market even regulate cannabis, Florida, gave out 10 licenses, in order to qualify for one of those licenses in the beginning that started with medical, it's evolved a little bit. But to get one of those 10 licenses, you had to be the owner of a nursery, a plant nursery in the state of Florida for at least 30 years. Now, the list of people who qualified that for that was quite small. And I guarantee you that they had a lot of influence in making sure that the legislators who wrote that law wrote it that way. And not only did they do that, they also said that there's going to be a limit on the number of licenses that's limited. But each license can grow and totally unlimited amount of cannabis, they can make as many products as they want out of that cannabis. They can open as many retail stores as they want to sell that cannabis. And they can do all of that directly in one vertical vertically integrated company. So in Florida, you've got basically a dozen huge monster cannabis corporations who are dominating the whole industry, one of the largest states in the country. So a very, very narrow band of prosperity. And economic development is being created. Very few new companies are being created. Very few small businesses are benefiting off of this. It's just a wealthy people who have lots of money, who are making more money. And you know, in my view, the wealthy people in this country already have too much money, and we need to move things in the other direction. So I like Oklahoma a lot better. You know, what people say in Oklahoma is that you know, anybody with $5,000 in a heartbeat can get a license. And that's the way that it should be right except maybe it should be $1,000 instead of $5,000. This is a beneficial plant that hurts no one. There should be a free and open marketplace. People who want to get into the cannabis industry, who have hustle who are willing to work hard, and be entrepreneurial, should not have artificial barriers placed in their way. And the communities and individuals who have been horribly brutalized and persecuted murdered in prison.

Because of cannabis should have special entry into that legal market. Now, you know, Oklahoma, it did not, as far as I know, have any really robust social equity programs. But the the basically open market that they created, where they said, Look, if you know, you got a little bit of money and you want to do this, we're going to make it possible for you to get into the market. And, you know, they know that a lot of people aren't going to succeed, a lot of those people who, you know, got the $5,000 licenses two or three years from now they're going to be back to doing something else. But they have the chance they have the opportunity. And that's what the American Dream is all about. That's why millions of people came to this country is why my grandfather came to this country as a 13 year old boy, right was for that opportunity. That chance, nobody's looking for a guarantee. But we all want an open door to prosperity and opportunity. That's the real amazing thing that cannabis offers us. I touched on it a little bit before about how we can redistribute wealth. You know, one of the things that's been happening in our country for the past several decades, is that a smaller and smaller number of people are controlling a larger and larger part of our economy. There's smaller, small businesses like all the little stores that used to be on Main Street, and more big box stores like Walmart, right. And cannabis gives us an opportunity to move that in the opposite direction. And we should take advantage of it. So New York has done something, which I think is just spectacular. They've created a micro license category, where you can grow up to 5000 square feet of cannabis. And then you can retail that cannabis directly to your own clients. Now, this is radically different from anything that any state has ever done before. And it mirrors basically the way that the legacy economy has worked, where you've got a lot of small growers, who small grow small quantity of really good weed that they sell directly to people who are consuming it. Maybe they sell it to people who are selling directly to the people who are consuming it. Right. But a very small supply chain. It's better for everybody, right? You know, I was in a meeting last night where somebody calculated that a person who opened one of these micro licenses in the state of New York should be able to clear about $13 million a year. Well, that's phenomenal. Right? That's great. And so now the debate in New York is whether or not to put a cap on the number of those licenses, right. And my position, of course, is that there should be no cap on the number of those licenses there. You know, anybody who wants to be able to open that 5000 square foot canopy, let them do it, if there are weeds good enough that people want to buy it, hallelujah, they've got a business, they've got prosperity, I'd much rather see 20,000 5000 square foot growers, and just a few growers who have millions and millions of square feet, the wheat will be better, it'll be less expensive, and the prosperity will be spread more widely.

Shayda Torabi  53:31  
so remarkable. I live for that dream and that dream being a reality rather have that type of accessibility to the plant. And I think even just in terms of being able to my personal dream would be legalize it, but let us grow it. So a version of that, right, let us grow it. And if we want to sell it to our small community, our group or to your point, if we've given the opportunity, we're not all supposed to succeed, right? But with the free market, okay, well, great. These people learned how to brand or these people learned how to make really good quality genetics, and are really great cultivators. And so let those rise to the topic of stifling the industry, just by the sheer amount of, you know, regulation legislation and stifling the opportunity because, you know, the big corpse would rather benefit or the government would rather benefit then we the people again, so everything you're saying is really, really spot on really relevant. I do want to ask you one final question. And I want to kind of tie in a couple of things that I recently read about you. I just saw, you recently decided to step away from Harbor side, which we talked about in the beginning was one of the first operating dispensaries in the country. It's still operating, but you decided to step away and specifically in the letter that you wrote to your community, you said he wanted to focus on ESG equity, sustainability and governance opportunities. And so I wanted you to speak a little bit more about what that is and how you see that manifesting and maybe tie into the world work you're doing with last prisoner project. I know that's a huge, huge opportunity of conversation and advocacy and ultimately helping release cannabis prisoners. I mean, you mentioned 40,000 People are in prison right now for cannabis laws. And just to kind of tie it up in a bow for the listeners, and then I'll let you good talking, go go on with it. But cannabis is becoming legal in states like California. And yet, I don't even know out of that 40,000 How many of those people are still in prison in California. So just because these states legalize, there's still so much work to be done. And I know, that's a big passion of yours. So if you could just kind of dive into that, and and that for our discussion, I think it'd be really, really informative. Sure, be

Steve DeAngelo  55:43  
happy to do that. So ESG is actually a terminology that's being used a lot in the investment world now. And there's actually a movement in the investment community and amongst very large companies, including a lot of fortune 500 companies to implement what they call ESG initiatives within their companies to try and basically make their companies more diverse, more sustainable, and more more equitable. And there's a new generation of investors who are coming on board who are basically refusing to invest in companies that do not have some type of ESG initiative going on. And so you know, that's what I want to see happen within the cannabis industry broadly, is I want to see our whole industry be equitable and be sustainable, and act in a responsible way that that spreads prosperity, broadly. So if you take a look at the ethic question of equity within this, the cannabis community, what part of our community is the part that has the least equity, the least justice, the toughest time, what's those of us who are still locked behind bars for something that never should have been made illegal. So when we think about equity, we have to put cannabis prisoners, at the very top of the lease list. Equity is not just about money, it's also about justice. And so first, the highest priority always has to be making sure that our prisoners come home. So to that end, I launched an organization in 2019, called the last prisoner project. The purpose is simple as we build a legal global industry, it's now creating intergenerational wealth for some people, mostly white people, we need to make sure that the 1000s while really if you look around the world, probably millions of people who are imprisoned on cannabis charges, mostly black and brown, and indigenous people are released and are given an opportunity to rebuild the lives that were stolen from them. And that just has to be a basic, the most basic thing that we as a community, do, you know, any community has to be judged by how well it takes care of the most vulnerable people. How do you take care of your children? How do you take care of your patients? How do you take care of your old ones, your elders? And how do you take care of your prisoners. And so we as a community have to get this done shame on us, if we build wealth, and neglect our sisters and brothers who are still in prison. So that's the first part of equity and ESG. The other part of it that I'm really focused on is this idea of using the legalization of cannabis as an opportunity to build some economic justice into the equation. And, you know, the even before you saw the kind of concentration of wealth that you've seen, in the course of the last 20 or 30 years in the United States, you've had a situation where the people who have really been able to participate in the fullness of the American Dream, the American economic system, has been very limited. And for the most part, black people, brown people, indigenous people and working class white people have not been able to participate have not been able to reap the rewards of capitalism have not been able to build prosperity and wealth. And that's because most industries when they're launched in boardrooms that are launched by investment bankers, they're launched in ways that the public doesn't have much to do with it. But cannabis is different. Cannabis is the result of the legal cannabis industry is the result of a political process that in this country, every citizen can participate in. And so we have an opportunity to structure this industry the way that we want to, we could structure it like Florida, and just give a bunch more money to people who already have too much of it. Or we could structure it like Oklahoma and make sure that people who have never had a shot Finally, get one. And that's where I want to drive this thing. And that's what I think when I think about ESG. That's when I'm talking.

Shayda Torabi  1:00:08  
I love it. I'm right on board with you, everything you're saying is so refreshing, because I don't think these conversations are happening at the frequency and at the forefront as the rest of the industry, I think needs to hear them. And so I really appreciate you coming on the podcast and helping bend the ear of at least my listeners to help educate and spread the message that you are championing so well. So thank you for the time and all the insight today, I really genuinely appreciate it.

Steve DeAngelo  1:00:41  
Well, it's been delightful talking to you Shayda. And to have some time with your audience. And, you know, the cannabis movement continues to evolve, we continue to learn lessons. And as long as we listen to the lessons that this plant teaches us, keep our minds open, keep our hearts open, stay connected to each other, be willing to flex and being willing to change. Everything that we're talking about here and more is going to come through I can tell you that because I've seen the amount of change that's happened in the course of my lifetime. So believe, have faith keep moving forward, stay strong, be well and be free.

Shayda Torabi  1:01:30  
Big thank you again to Steve for joining me on the podcast today and helping us set some parameters for how we can expect cannabis to unfold here in the States, as well as some insight into what we can do to contribute to helping create change and being better advocates of the plant ourselves. I'm curious what your takeaway was and encourage you to connect with me online. Please share and tag this episode at to be blunt pod with a friend and let's kick 2022 off on the right foot and commit to not only making this year our year, but consider what impact we can make in the cannabis industry at large. As always, thanks for keeping it blunt with me. I'll be back with another episode of The to be blunt podcast next Monday and encourage you to keep championing cannabis in your community. By all

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