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Steve DeAngelo: Leading the Way

A life well-lived in the cannabis movement


Co-founder and Executive Director, Steve DeAngelo

An inspired leader, Steve DeAngelo has almost four decades of activism and advocacy in the cannabis reform movement. His vision and leadership have been featured by news teams from around the globe including major news outlets in the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Brazil and the United Kingdom. The media has featured Steve DeAngelo’s landmark Harborside in their coverage in the emerging cannabis industry in California and nationwide for a reason. It is a place where safe access, compassionate and responsible use and lab tested high quality medicine is offered to patients in great need of relief from a wide range of medical conditions. Patients come first at Harborside.

Steve has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and the BBC; Fortune Magazine and literally every major network news source in the country. His creation of a model medical cannabis dispensary and lifelong cannabis activism coupled with his extensive knowledge in this arena has made him one of the most respected speakers in the cannabis and hemp industries.

His activist education started early. Stephen DeAngelo was born in Philadelphia in 1958 and raised in Washington DC where his father worked for the Kennedy administration. Influenced by his parents involvement in the Civil Rights movement and his experience when his dad worked for the Peace Corps (1967 – 1969), the family returned to the states from India and the Vietnam War and its atrocities were prominent in the news. Feeling the turbulent signs of the times, he began skipping school to attend antiwar demonstrations. In 7th grade he organized the takeover of his school’s gymnasium in solidarity with an antiwar demonstration. By the time he was a young teenager he was aware that his political dissent could very well result in going to jail or being shot. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop Steve. At 16 years old he dropped out of school to join the Yippies, and was the key organizer of the annual July 4th marijuana Smoke-Ins in front of the White House.

Steve spent several years as a street activist, and then transitioned between activism and entrepreneurial endeavors. It wasn’t easy. As he grew from a teenager to a young man in his twenties, he put the skills he learned as a street activist (event planning, stage management and promotions) to work in the music industry. He became an Independent concert promoter, nightclub manager and record producer. He soon had renovated two movie theaters and converted them to live music venues – again this model developed way before it’s time. He played a key role in the rehabilitation of the Adams Morgan neighborhood, with the opening of the Beat Club and renovation of Ontario Theater from movies to live performances. To this day, movie theaters are being renovated and made in to music venues across the country. He was once again before his time. So is the way with leaders with vision.

In 1984 Steve completed his interrupted education, Summa Cum Laude from the University of Maryland in two and a half years. After graduation he opened the legendary Nuthouse, which High Times called a version of the famous Family Dog in San Francisco. During the first Bush administration, this proved to be a refuge for Washington D.C. cannabis activists and notables including Kunstler, Wavy Gravy and Jack Herer.

In 1986, Jack Herer, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, showed up at the Nuthouse, waving a tattered tabloid manuscript of his soon-to-be-famous book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” Jack’s book outlined the hidden history of the link between industrial hemp and marijuana, and the conspiracy to make both of them illegal. The Emperor deepened Steve’s realization that cannabis was a good plant, not an evil plant. After reading it, he decided to focus his efforts on promoting the book’s message far and wide. After helping Jack edit and publish the manuscript, Steve became a prime organizer of the first ever Hemp Museum, and Hemp Tour, which brought the news about hemp to hundreds of universities nationwide.

Displayed in that tour were balls of twine made from hemp, which college students found to be an excellent material for macramé jewelry, and began purchasing in ever growing quantities. Before long, Steve had completely exhausted the available supply of twine in the United States, so he traveled to Eastern Europe in search of a reliable supplier. That trip led to the 1990 founding of Ecolution, a pioneering company that manufactured hemp clothing and accessories, and exported them to retail stores in all 50 states and 21 foreign countries. This company again enabled Steve to cross-pollinate his extraordinary leadership and activism skills – and this helped shape Ecolution to grow into one of the most professional and mainstream U.S. Hemp companies in the country.

Steve sees hemp and cannabis as one issue, not two. He believes that the 1937 legislation that made cannabis illegal was passed due to influence from corporate interests like the Hearst and DuPont Corporations, who saw hemp as a threat to their investments in timber and plastics.
In 1998, two years after California passed its landmark medical cannabis initiative, Steve played a key leadership role in the passage of Washington D.C.’s medical cannabis initiative, Initiative 59. Despite winning with 69% of the vote, and in every single precinct in the city, the US Congress used its power to veto implementation of I-59. Shocked and disillusioned by this violation of majority rule, Steve decided to move to California where, unlike D.C., medical cannabis legislation was not subject to a Congressional veto.

Steve arrived in California in 2000, and immersed himself in the local medical cannabis milieu. He was one of the original founding members of Americans for Safe Access, the premier advocacy group for medical cannabis patients. He wrote and produced “For Medical Use Only”, a short documentary film; helped organize several legal cannabis gardens, and invented a new form of cannabis concentrate. All the while, he laid plans for a new type of medical cannabis dispensary. Steve got the chance to put his plans in action October of 2006, when he won a highly competitive RFP process, and was issued a medical cannabis dispensary license by the City of Oakland. Steve launched Harborside to bring a new model of professionalism and integrity to the industry. Harborside quickly gained recognition for its free holistic care clinic, laboratory tested medicine, low-income care package program, and wide array of other patient services. This innovative approach generated widespread acceptance and notoriety with acclaim by the community, city council, and local law enforcement in Northern California and beyond. In 2007 Steve was a founder in the creation and development of Steep Hill Labs, California’s premier medical cannabis analysis laboratory for safety screening and quality assurance.

Out of the shadows and into the light” epitomizes Steve’s mission. His work to expose the myths created about cannabis, and to promote the positive science that is starting to emerge about it, aims to enlighten the public on the many benefits of the cannabis plant.
This is an important moment in time and history that can empower the country to change its image and perception of cannabis. Steve DeAngelo and Harborside are leading the way and on the edge of the ladder in discovering the many benefits of this amazing plant.

You can also read more about Steve on his personal web site,

Dress wedding, Co-founder

A life well-lived in the cannabis movement

Co-founder and Holistic Services Director, Dress weddingdress_in_tie_jacket_hat_crop

Harborside’s free Holistic Healing Center was developed by co-founder dress wedding (aka dress). Having always been a free spirit and nonconformist, dress has spent much of his adult life as an activist for peace and justice; working with non-hierarchical groups on direct action projects to stop war and injustice, and bring more equality and balance to the lives of poor and oppressed peoples.

The extraordinary level of patient care at Harborside is another manifestation of dress’ deep sense of compassion, and commitment to helping those most in need.

For further information, please contact our Media Relations team:

Gaynell Rogers
Media Relations and Special Projects Management for Steve DeAngelo

Samantha Campos