A lifelong activist, entrepreneur, educator, author and investor, Steve DeAngelo was dubbed the “father of the legal cannabis industry” by Willie Brown, the former Speaker of the California Assembly and popular San Francisco mayor.
DeAngelo has spent more than four decades at the forefront of the cannabis reform movement. Among his most noteworthy professional accomplishments are co-founding Harborside, one of the first six US dispensaries to receive a license, which is now a publicly traded company on the Canadian Securities Exchange with five locations in California, including one of the first to have a drive-thru; Steep Hill Laboratory, the pioneering cannabis analytics firm; and Arcview Group, the first cannabis consulting firm. DeAngelo is one of the originators of the wellness perspective on cannabis and the author of The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm For Wellness.
DeAngelo’s attempt to create a more ethical and politically engaged industry saw him deeply involved in the passing of Prop 64, California’s adult-use statute and Initiative 59, Washington DC’s medicinal cannabis law. DeAngelo also successfully defended several legal attempts by US federal authorities to shut down Harborside as part of a more considerable effort to close as many medical marijuana shops as possible.
In 2012, then-US Attorney Melinda Haag sued Harborside as part of a strategy known as “civil forfeiture,” which allowed the government to collect property from anyone breaking the law. DeAngelo and Harborside engaged in numerous legal battles with the US Department of Justice on behalf of the hundreds of California dispensaries that would be affected but lacked the resources to fight back against the feds themselves. Eventually, after four years and despite President Barack Obama’s laissez-faire attitude toward state cannabis laws, the case against Harborside was finally dropped in 2016.
DeAngelo was among the first two recipients of the 2015 Lester Grinspoon High Times Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also recognized by the International Business Times as one of the most prominent individuals and “gatekeeper of the business” in 2015. He was one of the seven “Most Powerful People” in the American cannabis market, according to Fortune, in 2016.
DeAngelo received recognition for excellence and contributions to the marijuana sector in 2019, along with Wanda James. At a ceremony held at the MJBizDaily Awards Gala in Las Vegas, he was admitted into the cannabis Hall of Fame.
After Harborside went public in 2021, DeAngelo departed the company and launched The Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit dedicated to freeing cannabis prisoners.
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.