Do you know what a cannabis activist is?

If you thought of the image of a hippie youngster spearheading the marijuana march you wouldnt be wrong, but this image is dated

São Paulo

If you thought of the image of a hippie youngster spearheading the marijuana march you wouldn’t be wrong. But this image is dated. Today we have the professional activist, the one who worked, integrated into and now stands out in the capitalist system. Who is backed by an advertising and communications agency and an elaborate message about the values of Cannabis.

According to the American Steve DeAngelo, 64 years old, the most renowned activist on the planet, it is someone that thinks of the plant as a symbol of a philosophy of life that leads to social change towards wellbeing, peace and love. “We have a special relationship with the plant, we don’t see it just as a therapeutic herb, but as a teacher and a positive force of change.”

Dressed in sober yet non classical clothing, such as a deconstructed black jacket and a Beatles style skinny tie, he is easily recognized from afar by his two long greying tresses who flow down from a panama hat he invariably wears. An eccentric figure, certainly, graduated in Law, who exercises the role of social educator and administers a small empire of green companies.

Homem branco, grisalho, vestindo terno e chapéu roxos, com longas tranças em primeiro plano; atrás dele, uma rua
Steve DeAngelo in front of the Harborside Public, in Canadá. - Divulgação

In four decades of activism, DeAngelo has become a cannabis icon, fighting for the oppressed, for the most emergent social issues. “If you’re in the industry or wish to be, you must be guided by the true motivation of serving the cause of more than just yourself. “And he goes on to say: “We need to cultivate the idea that being a part of the industry means participating in true change and serving others.”
DeAngelo is the founder of the LPP (Last Prisoner Project), a nonprofit that seeks to fight for the freedom of those with cannabis-related convictions. When an inmate is released from jail, the foundation helps them get a fresh start and reintegrate into society by offering them housing, jobs and professional training courses.

The action goes beyond. For example, in the protests unleashed by the death of George Floyd, -the African American who was asphyxiated by policemen in the streets of Minneapolis on the 25th of May this year -, the LLP provided legal representation for the protest goers detained during protests.

DeAngelo is considered the father of cannabis. A title that comes from his success in the business. He founded the Harborside Help Center - one of the first six licensed dispensaries in the USA. And today, one of the biggest medicinal cannabis centers. More than a store, it’s a center for mindfulness, with yoga and meditation classes, among other practices for mental and physical wellbeing. The company has shares listed in the Canadian stock exchange, where one of the four branches is located.

Among other businesses, he also owns the Steep Hill Laboratory, that offers testing services to legally authorized producers, and the Arcview Group, an investment company in the cannabis stock market.
The businessman lives submerged in this world as yet unknown to most Brazilians but considered essential by the American government in some states during the pandemic. According to the Bank of Montreal, US$ 196 billion dollars should be the amount moved by the sector in the world by 2026. During the pandemic and the subsequent depression in the stock market in the period, the Cannabis companies recovered last year’s losses and actually hit record sales.

DeAngelo em uma coletiva de imprensa da Harborside Public, no Canadá
DeAngelo at a press conference of the Harborside Public, in Canadá. - Divulgação

With Covid-19. DeAngelo exchanged conferences for lives -even going so far as to participate in a webinar with a group of Brazilian, organized by The Green Hub, business accelerator, in the beginning of June.
He is connected all day long through social media. And shows himself always willing to give out interviews. Never loses patience no matter how absurd or unprepared a question may be. Like an educator dad, he never uses slang. Never relaxes his posture. He carries himself more like a lord than an activist. He never interrupts the speaker. Has gestures and contained laughter.

Never uses the word marijuana, because it’s linked to the stigma of illegal crime. The word cannabis is key to the resignification of the new green companies, legal and lucrative.

In 2015, DeAngelo wrote the book The Cannabis Manifesto - A new Paradigm for Wellness, edited by North Atlantic Book, 230 pages long. The book is the result of a new vision, said to be more modern, of Cannabis, that broaches medicine, science, biological, spiritual and social effects.

Coming back to activism, he reminds he is not the only one, or the only voice of it. “We speak different languages. We have different races, we have different nationalities, different educational levels and income levels. But we share the same value set”, he says. “Everywhere, we are a tribe that values creativity over norms, freedom over order, nature over industries, inclusion over criminalization, love over hate”.