OAKLAND, Calif. – Cannabis industry pioneer and Harborside Inc. co-founder Steve DeAngelo has left his position as the company’s chairman emeritus. Neither he nor the company was specific about the reason for his departure.
“As of today, I have ended my leadership role and employment relationship with Harborside Inc.,” DeAngelo said in a brief video message released by Radio Free Cannabis, a blog he launched in June 2020. “Moving forward I will continue my work to expand the range of cannabis knowledge and freedom, with a focus on [equity, sustainability, and governance] opportunities. I wish Harborside the very best as it continues to promote wellness and destigmatize cannabis.”
DeAngelo co-founded Harborside Health Center as a single nonprofit dispensary in 2006 after gaining one of the first licenses issued by the State of California. Since then, the company has surmounted several “first to” milestones, including selling the first recreational gram in the United States on January 1, 2018.
“Our vision was to build a gold standard medical cannabis dispensary… Over time we achieved the original vision and much more,” DeAngelo said. “Harborside became the first cannabis company to feature tested cannabis, the first cannabis company to sell CBD-rich products, and the first cannabis company to treat a child with incurable epilepsy. We were the first to welcome the news media into our shop, and we were the subject of the first reality-TV show about cannabis.
“Our design ethic and service model became the role model for other dispensaries around the country,” he continued. “And when the federal government attacked the industry, we became its foremost defender. We won more awards than I can possibly remember and a complete list of Harborside’s other accomplishments would be far too long to include in this statement.”
Today, Harborside Inc. serves more than 250,000 registered customers at retail stores in Oakland, San Leandro, San Jose, and Desert Hot Springs, California. In addition, the company operates a forty-seven-acre farm in Monterrey County, California.
“Today, Harborside has grown from one nonprofit retail establishment to many locations and added cultivation and branded products to its operations and become a for-profit publicly traded company,” DeAngelo said. “The credit for these accomplishments primarily goes to my co-founders and to the many dedicated employees who bravely came to work even in the face of U.S. government threats to shut us down. Being their leader has been the greatest honor of my life and I thank each and every one of them for their hard work and the confidence they’ve had in me.”
As much as for his role as a legal cannabis industry pioneer, DeAngelo is known for his activism and advocacy. Perhaps most famously, he led four years of litigation against the U.S. Department of Justice, which sought to shut down California’s medical dispensaries. His activism reached well outside California, as well: He was a lead organizer and fundraiser for the successful effort to legalize medical cannabis in Washington, D.C. He is among the founders of Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit that provides intervention, advocacy, and awareness campaigns to redress the past and continuing harms of the failed war on drugs.
“It’s been tremendously gratifying to watch many of my co-workers grow into new opportunities outside of Harborside and become major leaders of the legal industry,” DeAngelo said in his video statement. “Now the time has come for me to join them. Moving forward, I will continue my advocacy work with the Last Prisoner Project and Radio Free Cannabis, and I’ll pursue business opportunities that are consistent with my values. No matter what, I will always do what I can to push forward the global frontiers of cannabis knowledge, cannabis culture, and cannabis freedom. Always onward, forever free!”
Harborside Inc. Chairman Matt Hawkins had little to say about DeAngelo’s departure: “On behalf of the Board, I’d like to thank Steve for his service to Harborside and for his history of activism in furtherance of building the robust legal cannabis industry that exists today.”
Neither man responded to requests for further comment.