Who speaks for cannabis

by Feb 5, 2020

Back when the source of Medicine Box’s most active ingredient was illegal, one could easily pinpoint not just the cultural stereotype of the classic stoner, but also their social stances.

Now that it’s legal, that cultural representation is now up for grabs, and there’s a lot of brands and personalities all over social media trying to shape it every day. To be honest, only a few are really doing the plant any service, and those are not only the ones who have done their homework, but have made the right adjustments to keep moving forward while still staying true to the plant’s heritage.

We write this in the midst of a large mass extinction movement in cannabis. Pacific Coastal Distribution has already gone under, and we’re hearing of quite a few others that are barely keeping it together, from Flow Kana to Cannadescent. Some of the failures we’re bound to see this year will be breathtaking in their scope and overall devastation. That means anyone going through this shakedown better have a pretty strong knowledge of the plant and its enduring values if they expect to survive. Those values have helped cannabis and its supporters persevere through overwhelming odds before; they can certainly do so now at a time when more people can access the plant than ever before. 

The modern-day cannabis all-stars

Steve deAngelo, Siohban Darwish, Bethany Moore

If you had asked me what type of person represented cannabis, I probably wouldn’t have envisioned a tie-dyed Deadhead. My default centered my dad’s blue-collar pals in New Hampshire, all of them who smoked their doobies, and my bong-hitting college colleagues who nonetheless maintained their grades. While these men and women were hardly drop-outs, their use didn’t consciously support uplifting their communities or their own mental and physical health. That said, it certainly couldn’t have hurt.

What a difference time and money make, however. While the unregulated market continues to endure, we’re starting to see the failure of the first phase of the cannabis industry here in California. There’s a lot of reasons for it, but it probably wouldn’t be as tough and rough as it is now if most of the businesses that won their permits decided to abandon the grassroots of this industry and subject it to a sterilized Apple Store makeover. On the other hand, many OGs simply cannot adapt to a field that insists one never get too stuck in one’s ways. Maybe it’s because they’re headed into their golden years, or they really don’t want to give up their outlaw ways. In both cases, however, both of these people cannot envision what cannabis was, is, and will become. So they certainly can’t speak for it.

This means that the true spokespeople for cannabis are a rare breed indeed. They can speak to the old school, the new school and schools that don’t even exist yet.

Steve DeAngelo, Harborside

Steve DeAngelo: An obvious choice, of course. This guy not only runs one of the largest and longest-running dispensaries in the state (Harborside), but also helped kickstart, for better or for worse, the era of cannabis investment with the Arcview Group as well as cannabis testing with Steep Hill. His activists bona fides have been established over decades alongside people like Jack Herer and Ed Rosenthal, and unlike many in the field today, Steve would willingly go to jail — and lose EVERYthing — for cannabis, if that’s what it came to, because THAT’S how much he believes in this plant. And of course, with the Last Prisoner Project, he’s also committed his company  to freeing all the Prohibition prisoners around the country.

Siohban “Danger” Darwish, Grow Sisters

Along with her partner Sloan, Siobhan has developed an organic following of canna-curious, DIY growers through their Grow Sisters media brand. It hasn’t been easy for her, since just like in the cultivation and retail spaces, there’s no shortage of people who hate you because they ain’t you, and have sworn to destroy what you’ve created. But authenticity and integrity have helped her persevere.

Bethany Moore, National Cannabis Industry Association

Another old-school activist who went pro once the going got weird, Bethany has extended opportunities for operators throughout cannabis to get heard through the Cannabis Industry Voice podcast and other media properties she manages for the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Who speaks for cannabis? Cannabis cultural representation

Do you want to be on this list? Do you want to speak for cannabis too? It’s pretty simple. You’ve just got to listen to cannabis, and realize that it’s more than a commodity that you can fit into a shampoo bottle and sell at Walmart. Once I began to grow cannabis, I learned the plant has its own unique intelligence, and your job during its life cycle is to convey its wisdom and maximize its abilities — something the industry as we know is has done a piss-poor job at communicating. Illustrating how cannabis has helped you and others you know can create the sort of leadership and guidance people truly need, and develop the vision that can truly take the plant forward. If it’s coming from the heart, you’re already further ahead than a lot of VC-backed cannabis brands, and the more you focus on that passion and back it up with facts, the closer you get to truly representing the plant. So I can only hope that ALL of you end up speaking for it. The plant needs supporters and its advocates, not opportunists. Now is their time to reclaim the plant and show the world what it truly is.



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