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TRAILBLAZERS Cannabis Pioneers

Steve DeAngelo

This is a brand new feature in West Coast Cannabis. Here’s how it works: We videotape an interview with some- one on the front lines of the Cannabis Movement. We publish excerpts from the interview, and show the rest on our website, www.westcoastcannabis. com/videos


his month, I got a chance to talk to Steve DeAngelo, the man be- hind Harborside Health Center

in Oakland, CA. Steve has been a canna- bis activist for more than 30 years. Among other projects, Steve has worked with Jack Herer, worked with NORML and ASA, and helped to get Washington, DC’s med- ical marijuana law passed. (Read his full bio at vedeangelo.html)

In these excerpts, we talk about the medi- cal uses of cannabis, the brave and vision- ary City of Oakland, the future of the le- galization movement, and the Deep Green Festival.

Ngaio: We’re sitting here in Oakland, California with the founder and director of Harborside Health Center, Mr. Steven DeAngelo. How are you today, sir?

STEVE: I’m great, Ngaio.

Ngaio: Fantastic, and we were just discuss- ing all the many different things that mar- ijuana can do as a — what would you call it? A health aid or remedy or a medical —

STEVE: Well, fi rst of all, let’s talk about language a little bit because you started to use the “M” word, and that’s something

we’re really sensitive about here. Ngaio: All right.

STEVE: If we go back and we take a look at the history of that word we use to refer to cannabis, what we fi nd is that it was promoted and popularized as part of a campaign, a racist campaign to demon- ize —

Ngaio: Marijuana?

STEVE: Yes, to demonize the cannabis plant and make it illegal, and in the pro- cess, it defamed whole, huge chunks of our citizenry. So, I don’t like that word; I really prefer the cannabis word in this case.

Ngaio: It’s a good thing we’re not West Coast Marijuana magazine; we’re West Coast —

STEVE: West Coast Cannabis, that’s right. So, anyhow, how do I feel about cannabis and health? I really think that cannabis needs to be looked at through the prism of wellness. We need to consider cannabis in the context of the overall shift that we’re seeing in the healthcare paradigm in our society. So, for a long time western medi- cine looked at health almost as if it were mechanics or something, right? If there was something wrong with you, you went to the doctor; the doctor would give you a pill or give you a surgery or something and that would fi x you up, and then you would go on with your life.

The idea of a holistic approach to health where you used tools like exercise, diet, meditation, herbal therapies — it really hasn’t come to the fore except in the course

16 WEST COAST CANNABIS More Than A Lifestyle

of the last twenty years or so. But it’s quite clear now that that idea of human health, the idea that we all operate on a spectrum of wellness rather than being either sick or healthy, is clearly shown to be accurate. I think that’s where cannabis really fi ts in.

Ngaio: So, really a more “whole person” approach. So, what do you say to people — you know, one of the big arguments is that medical cannabis is just a sham for people who want to smoke weed and get high, and marijuana doesn’t really have any medicinal, sorry, cannabis doesn’t have any medical effect at all: what do you tell this guy?

STEVE: Well, what I would tell them is it’s a mistake that you have to be terminally ill on death’s doorstep to use medical can- nabis. Take a look at the things that people use cannabis for, and, taken as a whole, they really promote wellness. So, people may use cannabis to reduce stress, to get a good night’s sleep, to spark their creativity, to increase their libido, to manage pain con-

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