Steve DeAngelo has emerged as an iconoclastic figure on the 21st century cannabis scene due to an infusion of business sense, advocacy efforts, and global media attention.
DeAngelo first entered the cannabis limelight in 2006 with the founding of Harborside Health Center (now, 11 years later, called Harborside) in Oakland, CA—the largest and most controversial medical marijuana dispensary in the United States to date.
The New York Times called it “the national model in which others could operate.” In recent years, DeAngelo has expanded on his hard-won cannabis industry knowledge by co-founding the Arcview Group, one of the most established cannabis angel investment network groups on the market.
However, Harborside represents DeAngelo’s original vision and genius within the cannabis space as it simultaneously signifies a great business model that serves as an inspiration for cannabis legalization efforts while lighting a fire under the feet of the cannabis legalization movement.
In 1996, with the passage of Proposition 215, California became the first state in the union to legalize the medical use of cannabis.
With this momentous legislation, the state was immediately moved into the forefront of marijuana activism on the global stage.
California’s unprecedented decision to legalize adult-use marijuana set the foundation for the development of a legal cannabis industry more than a decade before states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon decided to follow suit.
As a result, when DeAngelo opened the expansive Harborside in 2006, the interior design, holistic health services model, and large, lighted clinic space immediately put him in the public and media limelight.
According to media sources, Harborside currently has 270,000 registered and certified patients, making it the largest dispensary in the United States and possibly the world.
The scope of the operation at Harborside propelled DeAngelo to the front lines of California’s cannabis legalization battles, in turn making his name synonymous with cannabis on a worldwide scale.
It’s worth noting that publicly running a marijuana dispensary was an act of civil disobedience in itself—this notion was rapidly heightened in the George W. Bush era when Harborside first opened its doors.
As the cannabis space slowly began gaining mainstream media attention in the mid-2000s, DeAngelo capitalized on the public interest by featuring Harborside in a number of television documentaries.
Before this, DeAngelo was featured in a cover story for Fortune magazine, which had Mary Louise Parker, from the popular Showtime series WEEDS, on the cover. Since then, DeAngelo has been featured on two more Fortune covers, one in 2009 and another in 2013.
The California dispensary was the primary focus of the Discovery Channel’s four-part series titled Weed Wars. The show featured footage and documentation of the day-to-day operations in Harborside, garnering national attention of California’s medical marijuana industry.
Similarly, CNN’s hit show Inside Man featured Morgan Spurlock working within Harborside, again giving the nation a glimpse of a highly taboo industry.
While DeAngelo’s intentions for featuring Harborside in mainstream media had to do with cannabis advocacy and the spreading of public awareness, the television programs partially attracted the wrong sort of attention.
In 2012, the federal government came down on DeAngelo and Harborside with US Attorney Melinda Haag filing a commercial forfeiture seizure injunction against the property owner, claiming that the federal government would seize the property if the property owner continued to rent to Harborside.
This tactic was used all over the country. DeAngelo’s subsequent struggles to keep Harborside open, as well as stay out of prison, lasted in a four-year federal court battle. Finally, the Department of Justice dropped its case with Harborside in May of 2016.
Today, DeAngelo continues to be on the cutting-edge of the cannabis industry in California and around the globe, speaking at Oxford University in London, Barcelona, Spain, and, in November, as a keynote speaker in Prague at the EuroAmerican Cannabis Conference, taking a pro-active approach to government policy and business around the world.
To this end, the Arcview Group is one of the largest angel networks in the world assisting with seed funding for some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs that the modern-day cannabis space has to offer.