Andrew DeAngelo was just ten years old when his older brother, Steven, was holding cannabis smoke-outs in front of the White House in Washington D.C., where they were raised.
“Steve dropped out of school and ran away from home to become an activist in the cannabis space,” Andrew shared. “I stayed home, and during Steve’s early days of activism I was in college in California, watching from afar. During breaks I’d go home and hang out at the Nuthouse with Steven and crew, and ended up designing lighting for events. I was an actor who had some behind the scenes skills.”
Andrew had high hopes of becoming a tennis pro, but an injury when he was sixteen curbed that dream.
“My brother handed me a joint for the pain,” he explained. “I remember the exact moment—we were in the kitchen. I guess you could say that was my first time medicating with cannabis. But my first actual time of being intoxicated came a few years earlier when my brother, as teacher and guide, gave me a pot brownie.”
In high school Andrew DeAngelo said he wrote a paper advocating for legalization for an Advanced Placement government class. The teacher became enraged at the notion, but couldn’t stop the young advocate now following in his brother’s footsteps.
“The argument at the time was for personal freedom and that cannabis prohibition was wrong,” he continued. “That strategy was wrong…but we didn’t know that in the early 80s. We didn’t know enough about medical use at that time—and that’s really been the game changer.”
The AIDS epidemic in San Francisco that came into its own in the early 1980s changed the face of cannabis users, proving the plant’s efficacy for pain, infection, and for building the immune system.
“I always knew it helped me feel better—I smoked for injuries, pain, and when distraught over my tennis career ending,” he said. “It always made me feel like everything was going to be alright.”
Smoking cannabis is known to lift endorphins as quick as a morning jog. This is the euphoria most feel, helping to literally lift mental states. The word “stoned” comes from the alcohol and the drinking culture, and has nothing to do with the elevation of endorphins, creating dopamine. This is where the word “high” comes from.
While the brothers were discovering cannabis and the advocacy that followed, their father was working his way up the government ladder. First in city planning, working for the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then moving the family to Washington D.C.
“My parents were political people and they inspired us to be engaged politically,” he said. “But if not for cannabis, we would not have been involved in politics. We would have been creative people.”
Andrew DeAngelo first studied acting at Chapman, earning his BFA. He then went on to study acting at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, and would briefly teach acting as a professor at the university years later—but his higher calling was yet to come. He met Dennis Peron and began working on cannabis legalization.
Capitalism & Cannabis
In 2006, the DeAngelo brothers founded Harborside, a dispensary Oakland, California, eventually opening up locations in San Jose, San Leandro; a 47-acre farm in Monterey County; and a dispensary in Desert Hot Springs in California, with a now infamous drive-through window option.
With more than 250,000 registered customers, Harborside has flourished as the first retailer in the country to provide education for seniors, veterans, and families with severely ill children. It was also the first cannabis retailer to demand testing on all products, free from pesticides, and insuring verifiable potency levels of THC and CBD.
Andrew DeAngelo waxes poetic when discussing the free market and capitalism in the cannabis space.
“We obviously need capitalism for a legal cannabis market, but we also need to ensure sustainability and social justice happen in our industry,” he explained. “Sometimes capitalism is not good in that area. When capitalism fails, the environment and the people are exploited. The system needs to be reinvented and redesigned—we need to think of a new way of doing things. I believe that cannabis presents capitalism with opportunities to give a fuck.”
He added that it remains to be seen if capitalism can embrace the promise, because there really is not choice.
“Look at the wildfires burning or the hurricanes blowing,” he continued. “Look at the pandemic. How much longer can capitalism go without caring about those things? But capitalism needs teachers to help them integrate those values, and that is one of the things I try to do as a strategic advisor to the global cannabis industry. I want to build a new type of industry, not just a new industry. I believe cannabis can be a model for capitalism at large, and I intend to help make that happen.”
Unfortunately, we have a long way to go, as he added that capitalism is a stubborn animal, but if we feed it enough cannabis, he thinks we can get to that place.
“Clearly that’s what’s happening right now with the CBD movement,” he concluded. “The plants are coming to the rescue of capitalism, hopefully in the nick of time. We are their feet and voice—they’ll take care of the rest. You can’t stop the healing, and that’s really what the plant and the industry is all about.”
Andrew DeAngelo: Always a Patient
Since his high school injury, Andrew has always considered himself a cannabis patient.
“All uses are in the medical camp,” he said, emphatically. “All uses are for wellness. You are engaging your endocannabinoid system, and that’s a good thing. End of story.”
And, although he openly admits to enjoying getting high, his ECS is not denied.
“I medicate everyday,” he shared. “My primary delivery of cannabis oil is with capsules—whole plant, solvent-free. My favorite brand is Prana—all day long.”
Andrew DeAngelo no longer manages the Harborside Wellness dispensaries, instead spending his time advocating for the release of prisoners, with non-profit, the Last Prisoner Project (LPP). He and brother Steven co-founded, with Andrew sitting on the Board of Directors as Chairperson.
“Right now we are advocating for Michael Thompson serving time in Michigan,” he said. “He’s been in prison close to 26 years now—I was still in my 20s when he was incarcerated.”
With LPP, released prisoners will receive help with relocating, housing, employment, and expunging records.
Another endeavor is Dab Productions, founded by the brothers. It’s mission is “to create new mythologies for cannabis in pop culture, smashing the stigma of the lazy stoner, and replacing it with fresh and positive representations of cannabis in society.”
Andrew DeAngelo ended his role as a founding member of the Board of Directors of the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) in January of 2020, where he served from 2013. The association was created to promote responsible and legitimate cannabis industry and work for a favorable social, economic and legal environment for the industry in the state.
Aside from his work with LPP, and Dab Productions, Andrew is now putting his energies and lending his unique skill set toward helping companies in the cannabis space, with consulting and strategic advice.
“All of us that are walking the path of the plant, trying to create a new industry that follows the values of the plant,” he surmised. “The cannabis industry could be the new model for all other industries in this respect. It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, the journey is very unique—just like me and my brother’s. It’s been a wild journey with this plant and no two paths are alike.”