Andrew DeAngelo 0:00
advocacy is hard, and you get punched in the face over and over again. But those little moments where something good happens where your work pays off and somebody gets sprung from prison or a little log gets passed or you get to open your CBD shop in Austin, or you know, wow, I can drive around with six cartridges now and have a little bit more of a selection and share with my friends and you know, not have to worry about getting busted. These are all going around it. You know, this is our way of having cannabis in our lives and going around it making sure we don’t get in trouble and growing. The movement. We’re making history.
You’re listening to to be one be podcast for cannabis marketers. Were your host Shayda Torabi and her guests are trailblazing the path to marketing, educating and professionalizing cannabis light one up and listen up. Here’s your host Shayda Torabi.
Shayda Torabi 1:10
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of The to be blood podcast. My name is Shayda Torabi and I am your host for what I like to say is an intersection between the cannabis industry and really high quality brand marketing and brand building. I’m a marketer at heart. But obviously navigating this cannabis industry. There’s a lot of twists and turns. And so by inviting my guests to join me in addressing this conversation, my hope is that we will all learn through our shared stories. And today’s guest couldn’t be more prime for this discussion. And you are probably familiar with him to some extent. If you’re not familiar with him specifically, you might be familiar with one of his businesses. But my guest today is Andrew D’Angelo. His family is notorious in the cannabis world. him and his brother have been pioneers, whether it’s advocating at a legal level, or advocating at a patient level, to helping really create what we see as a legal cannabis market in California, through some of the roadblocks that Andrew will definitely dive into in this episode. But also just the opportunity that also comes with bringing this plant into the light. And Andrew and his brother are founders of last prisoner project, which is a huge nonprofit organization that really truly aims to help disrupt these conversations of the legality, contrasting with people who are in prison for crimes that if they were happening today, presently, it wouldn’t even be a conversation because it’s legal in the States. So it’s a very interesting world we’re living in when we’re building an industry on the back of, you know, a very highly stigmatized and controversial plants. And so with that said, I really honestly truly had a really good conversation with Andrew and really grateful for his time to have a conversation that I can share with y’all. I hope you enjoy this episode. Let’s get to it.
Andrew DeAngelo 3:42
My name is Andrew D’Angelo, and many of your listeners are probably very familiar with my older brother, Steve de Angelo, Steve and I got into cannabis. He’s nine years older than me. So he was a teenager, and then I had to become a teenager. It took a little while. But we’ve been working with the plant ever since really, and I’m probably most well known for two things harbor side, which is a vertically integrated cannabis company here in California. And then our nonprofit organization, last prisoner project, which is new, it’s only been around a couple years now. But we are already getting some very hard cases sprung from prison. Many, many, much more work to be done, of course, many more prisoners, many 10s of thousands of prisoners, we have to get out. But those are the two things I’m probably most known for. I’m also a strategic consultant in the cannabis industry. And I’m a storyteller and I do creative cannabis content. Also.
Shayda Torabi 4:46
I appreciate that very humble introduction. I feel like there’s so many other things you’ve had your hands in. I mean, just reading your bio I was trying to pick apart where do you start to have a conversation? Where do you start? to kind of look through your experience with this lens of marketing, and so I kind of want to leave it a little bit open ended knowing that you have historically spent a lot of your time helping advocate for the plant. Obviously, with a marketing lens, it’s, you know, helping people see it with a better light, whether it’s for reformation, whether it’s for, you know, how it’s being prosecuted from a legal perspective, whether it’s a consumer who is shopping, perhaps at your store or purchasing your product, what does that label say? So kind of from your, you know, long experience in the industry professionally, how do you see marketing really being a tool that you’ve been able to leverage to help further your mission?
Andrew DeAngelo 5:41
Well, great question. You know, marketing, I went to theater school, I went to acting school. That’s how I learned about the world. So I like to do things that I view marketing as storytelling, I think that’s essentially what we’re doing is we’re telling a story of a product or a brand. Or perhaps, if the product is something really remarkable, and natural like cannabis, we might actually talk about that thing itself also. And for a long time, in terms of advocacy, you know, marketing for advocacy is a little different than marketing for business, of course, but but this lesson may be instructive for both for a long time on advocacy arguments for politicians to change laws and the public to embrace cannabis more, was we have a right, we have a right to put whatever we want in our bodies. This is a free country. Get over it. That was the argument for many years, all through the 60s and 70s. The beatniks Allen ginsburg pot is fun. That was the whole argument. And it was not a wrong argument. It was a perfectly reasonable rational argument. But rational arguments don’t move people. And you can be right from here to tell the sky falls on your head or opens up and rains riches down on your head, whichever it may be, but being right doesn’t move people, what moves people’s being hitting the heart, it their heart has to be engaged, their feelings have to be engaged, maybe it’s humorous, maybe it’s light, it doesn’t always have to be, you know, fist in the air righteous, it can be many different things. I mean, look at cookies, look at what cookies is done. There’s not a righteous part of that brand. At all. There’s not a political part of that brand at all. There’s lots of different things we could talk about in that brand that sort of are contradictory and maybe controversial. But burns done a really good job of creating a feeling in people and creating a connection and people that’s familiar. That’s not scary. It’s not cannabis is a cookie, hold on. It’s not cookies. It’s a cannabis. No, it’s what is it? So it’s a different way of sort of reframing we have to refrain because people are used to the lie and the stigma of cannabis. So we have to reframe it, we have to rechange it, we have to make them comfortable. So once we started in that 90 a late 80s and 90s when a guy named Dennis perot’s lover died of AIDS and wasting syndrome, and he saw that giving him cannabis was prolonging his life. Well, the light bulb went off in his head, and he realized, Dentists have been selling weed and making the rational argument for a long time. But once he realized that, Oh, no, I gotta put the people that are suffering in front of the camera, not me giving out righteous speech. That’s really not moving people. But when you have someone who’s dying of AIDS saying this helps me live. Then we started hitting people in the heart. And then we started gaining a lot more political momentum, because everybody knows somebody who’s wasting away from AIDS or cancer. And so the silent majority started to get awakened with that messaging. So I think when marketing right now, you know, it’s a very challenging time to market cannabis, because every place is different. Texas has a much different level of stigma in it than California does. California is this bubble, where almost everybody smokes weed out here, and everybody’s tolerant of weed out here and you can smoke a joint walking down the street, nobody cares. They don’t care. They don’t give a f. If they care, they walk across the other side of the street. Even if they have their kid with them. They don’t care. Most of the time. Now if you ask him to license a cannabis dispensary in their neighborhood, they know I’d have a different feeling. And even in California, we have that problem of bands, local bands everywhere. But it’s a much different marketing stigma, audience target audience in California for cannabis then than it is in Texas. So we have that problem as marketers, okay. Well, if I, if I’m selling CBD and I’m selling in California and Texas, how do I tell the same story? Is it possible for me to tell the same story? Or do I need maybe two different brands, two different stories in that case, so that’s also a problem.
And then we have another problem. And that is, you can’t make claims about cannabis, at least on the FDA side of the fence, you got to be very careful, a lot of people gotten in trouble with that already. And I see more and more people getting in trouble with that. I had a group that was on the phone is developing a capsule right now. And you know, of course, their technology is better than anybody else’s technology. Um, and they want to call and they’re doing the, you know, the sleep, party, relax, kind of branding, you know, on everything. And everybody’s doing that now, right? Everybody’s doing that if there’s, if they’re, you know, sleep, and I get it, people need help sleeping, I need help sleeping. We all do, especially in 2020. But but I’m not sure how to differentiate a certain point there. And what if that’s not true? And what if somebody gets wired from your sleep, and stays up all night and has a bad experience? What happens then? So you got to be careful if there’s a little bit of a minefield, so how do you hit people in the heart with all those constraints happening at the same time, or just, it doesn’t? Again, it doesn’t have to be a big heavy fist in the air hard, it can be whimsical. burner did a pretty good job of it. So that’s some of my thoughts regarding marketing and cannabis.
Shayda Torabi 11:58
Now, I think that’s a really fair perspective, because it’s in line with everything that I think I’ve heard and then personally observed, I mean, you highlighted, which I think the listeners have heard time and time again, through my episodes, every state operates differently. And so understanding the state’s legalities, the state’s regulations, that application if you like, for example, Arizona just went recreational right? I have a friend who lives in Arizona, he texted me the moment that it passed. Let’s open a dispensary in Arizona. I thought, What the fuck? I don’t know Arizona’s laws. I’m not an Arizona resident. But what I do know from being in the cannabis industry is that there’s a lot more nuances to it. Same kind of scenario. I have customers who come to my CBD shop who say, oh, when weed becomes legal, are you going to just turn into a dispensary? I think it’s not just the light switch that gets flipped. And all of a sudden, you know, it goes from being illegal to legal overnight, there’s so many nuances, whether it’s the regulatory nuances, how it’s going to be marketed in the state, what are those licenses that you need to go and achieve? And so I think those are pieces that you really only start to peel back when you start dipping your toe into the industry. And so to kind of use your story as an example. harbor side has been around for a long time. It’s really one of the first major dispensaries that opened up. Obviously, your family does have a legacy in the cannabis industry that I think gave you an entry way to kind of navigate some of these challenges that we’re kind of addressing, right, like, how do I do this? Who do I go to? I think you probably had some people in your corner. But what was that like in California knowing that it’s so welcomed, but also still, I mean, it’s still cannabis and it’s not like there were people who had really done it before you building these I mean, you talk about cookies. I mean, you can talk about one other these huge brands now. But but they weren’t always and so what was that experience like creating and now running that dispensary over the years?
Andrew DeAngelo 14:11
Yeah, it’s a really good question. I think the most instructive story I can tell on that is in the very beginning, we opened in oh six and we were one of the first six licenses ever issued for cannabis retail. So we knew we had to be mindful, we knew we couldn’t put a big giant they wouldn’t let us put a big giant weed leaf on top of the building with a neon sign. Or even one of the ones with the green crosses like you see all through Colorado and other places. They wouldn’t allow that. And you know, we we were very conscious of the fact that it was very controversial, but people were raising hell to the Oakland City Council for issuing the licenses in the first place. So the places that you could you were allowed to open were very industrial areas. terribly depressed areas filled with, you know what, what some people would call homelessness and crime but I call the most vulnerable among us, you know, and, and that’s where we were. And so we had to try to make people comfortable. You had to drive there. Yeah, did. It wasn’t in a centrally located part of town, you know, we had a big parking lot, you know, we were able to secure it, we were able make people, we had a lot of security staff. But we had to create a brand experience and it was all in store, you couldn’t really advertise, we did decide to call ourselves harbourside. We’re right next to the harbor. And we felt like in terms of the text of our name, should be a little bit more neutral. It shouldn’t be central we’d headquarters or anything like that. So we wanted something that was a little more neutral. And I think our big mistake with harvest cycle, from a trademark perspective, it’s not very good. We’re just a bunch of underground weed dealers. I mean, we knew about branding, because we had our hemp company, we knew about activism, we knew we had the lesson of Dennis and hit people in the heart. And, you know, we were like you said, We are more sophisticated than a lot of people with our background. But But we were still, you know, who we were, and we didn’t go to marketing school, we didn’t go to business school, we went to sell weed on the street school. And you know, you learn a lot that way. But one of the things you don’t worry about is sophisticated marketing and trademark. So eventually, we decided that we were going to include the leaf, we were the only ones in those first licenses that did that. I think I shouldn’t say that without the saying I think I’m pretty sure. And we were one of the first, you know, companies that did that, that loudly and proudly had belief, we also had hands that were holding the leaf in the design that we did to try to communicate that we are being stewards of something good, and that the hands were both black and white. And you know, we’re trying to express how this plant can bring lots of different people together here in Oakland, when it’s very, it’s a black city. Not as much now as it wasn’t Oh, six, but but but it’s still very much black city, and certainly a diverse city very diversity. And so we’re very conscious of that we want all of our community feel good. I think a lot of your listeners, a lot of people in new markets like Arizona and Texas, you’re gonna grappled with this. Should we have a leaf? Should we not have the leaf? Should we do some tweaking to the leaf? So it kind of looks like a weed leaf, but it could also be clover? Or should we? How, you know? Should we have Canada in the name candidates Canada that candidates? Should that be in the name? Or how do we differentiate? It’s really hard. You have a CBD shop? That must be hard. I mean, how did the brands in your shop differentiate? You know, there’s so many now It must be hard. Hmm.
Shayda Torabi 18:18
Yeah. I mean, just to kind of loop around with what you’re saying. I think these are really good questions that I was going to almost ask you, if you could go back in time and do anything different, you know, would you the answer is probably yes. And no. I mean, I think back to when we launched our brand, ourselves. I mean, yes, we made similar decisions and had similar discussions. Our brand is called restart CBD, but restart kind of being standalone. Like you kind of address we wanted to be neutral. We didn’t want it to be Canna focus. I mean, we’re trying to read the audience. We’re in Texas, you know, there is a stigma to it. Were also when we launched our brand, it was not state legal, it was federally legal. And as you know, just because something is federal, your state could have varying laws, and Texas is Texas. And so there was a lot of rightfully so threats around what we were deciding how much we want it to be risky. You know, it’s like I could say this in my title. I could market it this way. I could put this logo up, but it was always the kind of a I don’t know how this is going to be received but from my consumers, but also the enforcement. So we are fortunate. We’re in Austin, that we don’t have to deal too much. I mean, it’s still Texas, but Austin is a little bit easier than I think Dallas or El Paso. But yeah, for us, we actually pretty much only sell our own products. So I have no competition necessarily with other brands, but I agree with you on the I go to our local grocery store and now they’re selling CBD in the grocery store. I mean, don’t even get me started on the actual integrity of those products just because something is sold in a grocery Store does not qualify it as a good product. But you start to kind of look at all the brands and starting to pick them apart. And it is very difficult. And something that you said that really resonates with me that I would love to highlight for those listening is you really have to have a story, you have to have something unique. I mean, I totally get vertical integration where you can control we’re growing the plant, we’re extracting, we’re packaging, we’re marketing we’re selling. So obviously there is more. Our growers have been, you know, growing slash selling slash in the weed industry for decades. We have this passion, we’re craft cannabis connoisseurs. But then I think a little bit on our side from CBD, especially because you couldn’t grow in Texas hemp up until recently, we really couldn’t be vertically integrated. And so at that point, it is a, how do I tell a better story than the guy or gal next to me. And so I think storytelling really is key. But I want to kind of go back to your story and pick apart a little bit further with harbor side. I mean, coming from that scenario that you painted of, you know, it was accepted, and it was acceptable, but it still had these, you know, challenges that you’ve had to overcome. Maybe signage was an issue or parts of town that you were you were able to actually get a location for to actually put your dispensary up? How has that evolved as cannabis has gone? more mainstream? And I’ll kind of also add on to that question, just given your particular background of advocacy from a legal perspective, especially launching last prisoner project. It strikes me as a hard situation to exist in. And this is why legally, it takes the stigma around it away, if you bring it into the light. Now there’s a legal plan, nobody should be prosecuted. Because the legal plan, you can go to a store, you can buy it. But I know you’re in California, and everything that I hear about California seems to me that it’s kind of difficult to operate in a legal market, there’s monopolies, they only issue so many licenses, you know, how do people manage and navigate that? So it’s like on one end, do you want it to be legal because you want the freedom and accessibility and for people to not be punished for this plant? But then at the same time, you know, do the small players who want to have the dreams of a cannabis brand in California is is that even a possibility in cannabis in 2020?
Andrew DeAngelo 22:28
Very hard in California because the framework for adult use legalization was designed poorly. And the political environment here makes it very hard to fix it. I was in Sacramento for three years trying to fix prop 64, the adult use framework 75% of our transactions, almost three years into adult use are still in the I call it the legacy market, call illicit market, whatever you want to call it. That’s a disaster. And as you mentioned, the barriers of entry it’s really barriers that the local people limit licenses, yeah, or they ban it all together. So you can’t give the local people control to do that. Sorry, local people. You could opt out of prohibition. You don’t get to opt out of legalization. It’s called democracy, deal with it. You can zone it and push us in the edges of your town or whatever, fine, where we people, we’re used to having to put in a little work to get our stash. Okay. But don’t let the local people ban it. Don’t let the state and local people overtax it, or the people are gonna keep buying from their dealer not from the dispensary. They just want I’m sorry that people’s wages don’t go up that fast. And then, of course, one of the cool things in the medical framework in California, which kept some of the vultures and sharks away from finance and other industries, it was nonprofit, had to be nonprofit. That’s probably a four letter word nonprofit in Texas, but for our community. For the people that been working with this plant for a long time in Texas, who have served the time and gotten busted and taken the risk should they all be displaced by big business coming in on day one doing all kinds of smoky room deals. That is not even weed smoke.
Shayda Torabi 24:39
I get to go lobby with Texas normally it’s a labor of love because it really is I vibe with what you’re saying at the state and local levels, even if it becomes legal. I think that’s where it gets tied up. And so that’s what gives me concern about Texas. I hear so much speculation. Oh, Texas is going to pass in two years Texas is gonna flip it’s like I just I don’t see it. And maybe this is another question for you to having gone through and in California. From my understanding from a political landscape, it does appear that there’s a trend you go from medicinal to recreation or medicinal to adult use. Has anybody ever gone straight? Anybody meaning has any state that you’ve observed gone straight recreation? I don’t think so.
Andrew DeAngelo 25:25
Um, let’s see. That’s a very good question. I don’t think so either. Michigan didn’t. Massachusetts didn’t. Florida didn’t evolve, I think had medical but they didn’t have dispensaries. And so they did all of that
Shayda Torabi 25:40
at once like Mississippi just went medicinal. Arizona just went recreation, but they had medicinal first, but it just means to me that for a state like Texas, I’d have to see proper medical programs. legit legislature coming out that supports that development before I even see an adult use market. Now things can change, but it just creates an interesting progression into legality. Right? And so I think, coming from California being I really think the poster child for I’m gonna say it good and bad cannabis.
Andrew DeAngelo 26:15
We are the poster child for how not to legalize adult use, I will say, as someone who’s still, I think loves California, but I fell in love with California has a nine year old boy, I’m 53 now and I I’m very proud California, but we have not done this right at all. We are the poster child for doing it wrong.
Shayda Torabi 26:35
I appreciate you admitting it and saying it because I think that is the observation when you are looking from a Texas perspective. Like I said, I use this podcast, I use these conversations very selfishly, to better understand and navigate what we’re approaching. And so when people, you know, ask or say they’re like, hey, when are you going to flip your your CBD shop into a weed shop? I’m like, that’s not how that works. That’s not that easy. And so looking at what California did compared to Colorado, I’m always like, okay, Texas, if you legalize, please look at Colorado, please look in Colorado don’t do what California is doing. But knowing that it’s obviously much deeper than that. And I feel like the only way you can really start to get into it and navigate it is by getting in and navigating it. And so you just mentioned you were in Sacramento. I know you did some stuff in DC. Was there anybody who was like, Hey, you should come be a part of this. Or were you just like, I want to be a part of changing this, like you felt the passion inside of you to go advocate because I think advocation is a broad word. And I’ll quickly dive into that. I’ve been a cannabis consumer for 15 years. But I’ve only professionally worked in cannabis, ie. I’m also my own boss now for two and a half years. So that means the majority of my cannabis consumption, I worked for someone else, I might have enjoyed the plant. But I worked for a private company, there was no fucking way I was going to go lobby, there was no way I wanted anybody to take my information down. I didn’t want to be associated to it. And so I enjoyed the plant, but I did so from the privacy of my home or when I would go to legal state trips. Now being in the business side, I especially don’t want to just be a brand who who preaches I want to be a brand who rolls her sleeves up and actually shows up for the plant and for the people. And so for me that looks like advocating through organizations like supporting Texas normal or national normal or last prisoner project. And so seeing nonprofit ways to invest my time and resources as well as organizations who are helping advocate on the political side on the legislative side. But I didn’t make that transition until I worked for myself and I could do that. And so I know there’s probably people who have a similar desire to advocate like you and I are discussing but they just physically can’t because they don’t want to put their name associated advocacy and so it’s kind of an interesting mixture. I’m just curious how you got into it and what that experience has been like from California to DC to some of the other states you might have been a part of.
quick break to say thank you to restart CBD for sponsoring this podcast. Restart CBD is a brand my sisters and I founded in our hometown in Austin, Texas. We operate a retail location as well as an e commerce store and you can browse our wide range of CBD products at restart CBD calm. Again, thank you to restart for allowing me the time and resources to put on to be blunt. I hope you’ll check them out for your CBD needs. Let’s go back to the episode.
Andrew DeAngelo 29:55
I came up in a much different time than that I came up in the 80s is when I started started smoking weed, and I was a teenager. And the reason we were advocates was because her friends were getting busted and going to jail. That’s why you become an advocate. Now, it’s more nuanced in the sense that we’ve always had the problem of people being in the cannabis closet one way or the other. And whether it be actual use of cannabis, that they don’t feel comfortable coming out of the closet, or its advocacy of cannabis, and that they don’t feel that they can even do that. Because it would hurt their career would hurt their status, it would hurt things, they’ve invested a lot of energy into building, and they don’t want to risk that. So it’s been a very common problem. Sure, that’s a huge problem in Texas gotta be a huge, huge problem. I mean, if you just look at this last election, South Dakota, Mississippi, one and their red states, Biden didn’t have a prayer in those states, I think we’d won even bigger than bind in both those states. And I think it might have won even more than Trump did in Mississippi. So I don’t think Trump beat wheat in South Dakota. weed is beating Republicans as beating democrats is beating all the politicians by higher margins, it’s usually a landslide, it’s not even close. So there’s a gap between what’s happening in the major political parties and the political decision making process in our country with respect to cannabis, and the actual people themselves. And so hopefully, people are feeling more brave when they see election results like that. And they feel like they can speak out a little bit more, it starts with your own community around you. This is marketing to a certain degree. And maybe it’s just a question at Thanksgiving dinner, you know, it’s very conservative family. Maybe it’s just a question, you know, What do y’all think about that we thing in South Dakota? And it’s just a question. You’ve already decided the person asking the question that you want to be legal you want in your life, but but you can’t say that at that Thanksgiving dinner. But you might be able to say, what do you think about this South Dakota, and it’s South Dakota, it’s similar conservative place, and all of a sudden, you’re starting to open up the door. It’s just a crack, it’s just a little tiny thing. They might that marijuana, and you might have to go back
next year. And, and it might be like that, or it might be you know what, I’m so sick of this damn marijuana walk. And you know, the whole door is open. And all of a sudden, the family’s having a conversation that is much different than ever, and then people expect and that’s how it worked in my family. My parents were against it, they hated it. My mom hated it. My dad hated it. They lectured us against it, they knew what we were doing, we weren’t gonna hide, we weren’t gonna lie to our parents, but they hated it. But by the end of their life, my parents are both using CBD and THC on the regular. My mom had dementia, my dad was in all kinds of physical pain. And they died in our arms at home. And cannabis was a big part of their end of life. Medicine regimen, there are lots of other medicines in there too. But cannabis was the thing that moved the needle the most in terms of just, it really helped them, you know, and and that evolution that my parents went through, it wouldn’t they wouldn’t have gone through that if my brother and I hadn’t had all those conversations for all those years and and done that within our own community, our own family, and that advocacy. And so that’s where it starts for all of us. And when we think about marketing, we have to facilitate that those conversations a place like Texas, especially and you know, maybe restart is a good brand to have that conversation. Right. And so, that’s an example of a way of opening that door a little bit because you’re right. I don’t see legalization in Texas, your next session, I see D cram. I think you’ll get d cram, I don’t see medical in your next session. I just don’t see it. I wish I hope I pray work like hell. But I don’t see it happening politically based on my experience of all this. So I think you get d cram in your next session. And then two years after that, you get medical. I think that’s what’s going to happen then two years after that you’ll get adult use and that’s what what Texas is going to feel comfortable with. And it’s going to be tricky because I think you’re going to have more of an Oklahoma experience with the elected officials once they do decide then you are We’re going to have a California experience. And I hope it’s more like Oklahoma and Colorado, frankly, than then California. And Texas, you know, has a great promise. There’s great promise for cannabis in Texas despite the six year timeline is next year, the session 2021.
Shayda Torabi 35:18
Is that the next session when you 21 is the next session, and I’m happy to hear your timeline. Yeah, I’m right with you though.
Andrew DeAngelo 35:25
Well, I think 2025 is when it happens. Unless I’m totally wrong. And it’s longer than that, or I’m totally wrong. It’s shorter than that. But that’s what it feels like to me. You’re there. What do you think?
Shayda Torabi 35:36
No, you’re right on the money. That’s exactly what I share. Fun fact, Austin is decriminalized under four ounces, which is wild. You can have 10 cartridges, personal possession, I’m using air quotes for y’all listening, which previously a singular cartridge was a felony in Texas. And now in Austin, you can so we’re making progress. It’s very great. I tell people weed is basically legal. I say weed is legal here for all intensive purposes, you just cannot legally buy it. So you know, have fun with that. But no, I think you’re obviously your expertise. It’s fun for me to hear because it corroborates what my research and history. Just being a Texan and also working in this industry now has seen in witness and yeah, we’re a two year cycle. They don’t have any there’s some guy just wrote a couple legislative pieces that are promising but nothing is for medical and just kind of what we address the trend of medical first I don’t see anything. Our MediCal program is not even a medical program. It’s point 5% THC, which is a joke in my opinion. And so until we have a true MediCal program, I can’t even start to put a timer on okay two years and then two years but I’m with you I’m about five or six years. But going back to your point in your sentiment of sharing about your parents and your own personal journey with the plant I think it was just such a beautiful sentiment to kind of highlight because I do you think that is really where advocacy begins and I do realize not everyone has the comfortability to be as public facing as perhaps you and I are one of my friends here in Texas. He likes to use the hashtag normalize the joint. I’ve jumped on board I like to post pictures of me smoking joints everywhere. People are like what are you doing? I’m like, this is how I advocate for the plan. This is how I help D stigmatize it. It’s funny though, on my Instagram I posted I was touring a Texas hemp farm yesterday in South Texas. Very small operation the guys just kind of testing things out but a very very good grower. I haven’t smoked his stuff yet. He gave me a couple samples. But beautiful trichomes purple hairs pink hairs just doesn’t even look like him. It looks like marijuana. And so I put it on my Instagram I said is this hemp or marijuana? Oh my gosh, everybody’s saying this is we this is marijuana. And so I started digging further. I’m like, do you guys think I sell weed in my shop? You know, here in Austin and people are like yeah, I thought that’s what you’ve been selling this whole time. And I’m like, ah opportunity to help educate you know, it’s just I think advocacy really is it’s just connecting people with those dots whether it’s your family members at a dinner table or you know, your friends and your peer group or you know, the water cooler the office or in my case, it’s my Instagram followers. I’m like, I want to help you guys understand this plant from a non, you know, defensive perspective. I just truly want to help people understand it better.
Andrew DeAngelo 38:39
It’s so hard for everybody. It’s so confusing. Is CBD cannabis. What is cannabis? What is weed? What is CBD? What is THC? It’s all cannabis. Okay, it’s all one thing but we have to make these distinctions because of stupid human tricks.
Shayda Torabi 38:57
Well because of the law too, right? I mean, technically in Texas, you cannot have over point 3% THC but Texas doesn’t count. Total THC they just count Delta nine THC. So I’ve seen a couple things in California. I think y’all have products that have delta eight in them. Texas is a huge Delta eight market but it’s because delta nine isn’t legal. And so even just navigating and understanding the nuances from a state perspective, from the plant perspective, I had somebody come in the shop the other day, they said can I do you have CB Rs? Do you have delta eight flower? I had to pause I had to correct them. You know flower is how it grows from the ground and delta is such a minor cannabinoids. It just it’s not going to be present enough in percentages for you to detect Delta eight. So no, that isn’t a product that we have access to right now. But that information is it just is it’s hard to to under And fathom, it’s hard for me to fathom, and I’m in the industry, let alone, digesting it, filtering it and putting it out for information for a consumer to understand. That’s a whole complex. I mean, that’s the whole point, again, of this podcast is like, how do you market this plant. And so I think, again, from my perspective with with your history, too, I think it’s really cool, obviously, to create the awareness from last prisoner project. And there is a cool aspect to but there’s also a very serious reality to the implication that this plant has been placed under. And as a result, the arrests, the amount of years lost of people’s lives for dabbling, dealing consuming a plant that you and I, for the most part, get to play with now, legally, so kind of walk me through how your advocacy from, you know, just being an individual in the space running businesses in the space transitioned into advocating on this bigger platform. I mean, creating an advocacy group like last person or project, I’m sure is not an easy feat when you’re trying to go up against the government who thinks they’re right. And the law says this, and I mean, I watch a lot of crime cases crime TV, you know, opening old cases and files. It’s, it’s a lot of work. So how do you how did you even begin to navigate that? What was the impetus for kind of creating last prisoner project? And also what is it for those listening who are maybe unaware of what it is?
Andrew DeAngelo 41:32
Sure. Last prison project is a nonprofit organization, we are official 501 c three. Now, our mission is very simple. Get every cannabis prisoner on earth out of prison, particularly in places where cannabis legalization has happened in one form or another, but really everywhere. And then once you’re out, we want to help get your record expunged and reintegrate you to society, that means housing, that means employment, and that means support for families and children. And that’s what we do. It is hard to advocate for the most vulnerable among us, whether it be the homeless or whether it be our prisoners, or whether it just be people living in terrible poverty, or people that are terribly strung out and desperate right now. We have that crisis. So whenever you’re advocating for the most vulnerable among us, it’s hard journey takes a long time, takes a lot of resources. And when you’re trying to get people out of prison, you’re dealing with the criminal justice system, and the way cannabis gets legalized, it’s not just everybody gets out of prison. As soon as the law passes. It’s not just everybody’s record goes away since the law passes. It’s not like this magic thing that happens as soon as the law passes. And people probably don’t realize that right? But politicians don’t think about this holistically. They think about it, based on what they need to do to get votes and, and contributions. So they’re very reluctant to legalize weed in the first place. And and then they don’t take a holistic approach. And they forget about the prisoners, or they forget about expungement. And they don’t put it in the law. And then people like last prison project go, but I can’t, what are you doing, and then we have to go through a whole process of trying to get those laws passed that will help us or just go through a pre ordained process for expungement. That’s very draconian and absurd. So that requires a lot of lawyers, you have to fill out paperwork, you have to file a lot of petitions with courts, you have to wait for them to rule on it. There’s parole boards, there’s all kinds of people like that you have to go through in some cases, some of our constituents, we try to get them better lawyers so that they can do better on appeal. So we have a lot of lawyers working for us pro bono. We have, you know, PR firms helping us we have a very small team of staff. And we have a very dedicated board, which I’m chairperson of the board, and we volunteer our time to do this work. And luckily, our model for the organization engages the canvass industry. So we’ve developed programs that anyone who’s in the industry can be a part of. So if you have a retail shop, when you do, you can have a little bucket little change bucket so people can put their change in there and that’s called rolled up for freedom. And that program has raised well into the six figures of money. And we have I think, I don’t know
somewhere around 53 tailors across the country. Maybe more than that now, maybe a lot more than that now, Mary Bailey, our Managing Director, she runs a program every day we’re adding she’s adding more people to that program, we have a similar program for manufacturers and anyone who grows cannabis or has a consumer facing product, you can get a last prison project logo that you can be put on your product, we don’t want it to be a big giant thing on the product just a little, let your customers know you support. Last prisoner project. We’re not trying to be a cannabis brand. That’s not our mission. But we do offer that that sort of support and upside for folks, we promote our brand partners on our website on our social media. And we’re trying to do think of ways to help brands that support us get as much support from us. Because I think it’s very worthy thing for companies and brands to do. And we’re not the only group, there’s lots of groups that companies can support. I encourage you to support others to not just us. And and you know, I hope we can get folks out. There’s a terrible case in Spain right now on one of the big Spanish activists who has a big chain of associations over there got busted and has to serve five years, which is insane in Europe. So they’re starting to crack down on the nonprofit associations in Spain, which is very troubling development. And we may be in more international faster than we think, if we can somehow draw attention to that case. So there’s high profile cases, we spend time on people serving life. Right there in Oklahoma, we have a constituent named Leland Dodd who’s been serving, who’s basically got a life sentence, he’s been in jail, I don’t know, 2530 years, he’s in his 60s, now, the only thing this guy wants to do is go fishing. And he’s been in jail for so long. And he got set up by undercover cop, I think was, I don’t know, wasn’t very much, we five or 10 pounds a week, maybe a little bit more than that. And so he’s just sitting in jail, you know, we’re trying to get him out. So we have some high profile cases. And then we have a whole lot of just regular, you know, lower profile cases. And we try to pick the low hanging fruit from that we have limited resources, obviously, and and so that’s what last person or project does. And it really is a joyful expenditure of time and energy. When you talk to someone on the phone that you’ve sprung from prison or or talk to them on zoom. It’ll make you feel really good. Or you write a letter I you know, just today I’m going to send some books to a cannabis prisoner who’s serving Tommy No, no, I am sending him a couple of books. It feels really good. When someone says that book you sent me I’ve shared with 100 other inmates, they’ve all read it and we had a little discussion about it, that makes you feel good, then just making money on your cannabis brand, you know, and and you can walk a little taller and a little prouder. And that’s the currency that I’m trying to peddle right now. We have to go around these these these terrible problems and constraints and laws that we have even even when the frameworks are poorly designed like California, you know, when harbor side got disrupted my work with harvest, I got disrupted because of some of these same forces. I said, Well, what can I do next, that’s going to be helpful. And that’s not going to be controversial at all. Okay, I’m going to try and get people out of prison.
This year, I’ve probably made less money than I have in 15 years. But I’ve also felt really good about the work I’ve been able to do in the last person or project. So advocacy is hard, and you get punched in the face over and over again. But those little moments where something good happens where your work pays off, and somebody gets sprung from prison or a little log gets passed, or you get to open your CBD shop in Austin, or, you know, well, I can drive around with six cartridges now and have a little bit more of a selection and share with my friends and you know, not to worry about getting busted. These are all going around it. You know, this is our way of having cannabis in our lives and going around it, making sure we don’t get in trouble and growing. The movement. We’re making history. But what you and I do 100 years from now, yeah, no one’s probably gonna remember us or there won’t be any statues and that’s okay. There won’t be any buildings named after us. That’s okay. That’s not our legacy, our legacies Made out of something called soul. And there’s going to be a whole bunch of souls that are going to have this in their lives, this plant in their lives and the clothes they’re wearing and the buildings they’re living in, and medicine in their medicine cabinet, and the relaxation in their drawer and the paper that they wipe their high knees with my all be may from this plant. And by behaving every day in that way, they will be sharing gratitude, and thanks with with us, that’s the legacy of soul. That’s what we pedaled, that’s really what we do. So last prisoner projects, just one more effort in that same spirit,
Shayda Torabi 50:43
I so appreciate you sharing that it’s very apparent to me, obviously, I can see your face, but it’s it comes through in your words to the passion that you have for the impact that you are given. Right. I think, I think there’s a lot of opportunity in cannabis, we all talk in the industry, it’s a new industry, you know, there’s obviously a lot of history that we’re trying to work through, whether it is politics, or the government, or just our geographical area, maybe it’s our own personal limitations from a cultural perspective and multi generational perspective. But I really do believe if you are in the industry, you should have some sort of stewardship to this plant. And it might look different than what you’re doing or what I’m doing. But having some way to to leave a legacy that is impacting and changing our world through this plant for the better, is what it is all about. I mean, that really is for me, like yes, you said making money having a business having a brand. I love my CBD shop very much. But I see it as a conduit for a conversation, like you were saying earlier, you know, using the holidays, even as even as an example of just start to have these conversations with people. And that was really our intention with creating our brand. It was how do I make a safe space in Austin for central Texans to be curious, and have a resource that they could trust and everything else is gravy on top right. And so I just, I really truly appreciate having you on the show and being able to have this conversation with you because I have been a fan from the sidelines as a cannabis consumer observing what you and your brother have done both through hardware side and last person or project and every other aspect of the industry that y’all have touched to help bring more awareness to this plan to this industry. And I’m just really happy that we were able to have this conversation. So if there’s anything else you want to add or share. That’s kind of like a final thought I’d love to open the floor up for you to do that. Great.
Andrew DeAngelo 52:47
I’ve really enjoyed our conversation and being with you and your listeners today. Well first, I’d say if you live in Texas and you love cannabis, you should move to Austin right away. When I was last in Austin A few years ago, I met some prisoners who had gotten sprung recently. And these are people that had an ounce of weed couple ounces a week that did yours. Because they weren’t in Austin. They were in other parts of Texas. And they did yours in state penitentiary for for that small amount of weed and they were talking to me and sharing their story. And I was like, Wow, man, that’s terrible. And if they were in Austin, it wouldn’t happen to them at all. So that’s one thing i would i would sign off on. The other thing, I would say, you know, I’m, I’m an easy guy to get ahold of. And I have a website Andrew de Angelo calm. And I like to help all kinds of different people in our community, whether you have a business or not, whether you’re doing advocacy, or trading or growing or what have you. My post-harvest side life is about building the industry and making sure our industry has a good conscious and behaves. We’re trying to redefine how industries operate behave in the world. That’s really what we’re trying to do. You said it a minute ago, I’m creating a safe space. And you know, it’s not just liberating cannabis that we have to do the entire human race and this planet that we’re living on needs urgent attention from all of us. And whether you do it with social justice, or you do it with cannabis, or you do it with solar panels, or you do it with whatever it is that you do. All hands on deck right now. You’ll find your spot, whatever it is your skill set, whatever it is that you talk to you. If you’re confused. You don’t know what your spot is, email me, I’ll help you. I’m sure you’ll help folks. Our community is always helped each other with that challenge and Continue to and if we do that, and we don’t build moats, but we we hold hands and we knocked down walls together and realize that almost everything in our lives that’s tangible can be made from this plant. So there’s plenty of room for everybody and carry on.
Shayda Torabi 55:22
Oh my gosh, wasn’t that just the coolest conversation I mean, to get to really have a conversation with someone of his expertise and caliber, is something I will never stop appreciating. I just think having these open dialogues where we can start to hear each other’s stories, learn and rediscover our own purpose, and ultimately help push this plant forward to whatever extent and means that you are capable of like Andrew said, you know, advocacy, it’s different for everyone. And the winds look different for all of us. But together collectively, we need to be talking and making an impact in the most meaningful way that we can personally make an impact. So I hope you are encouraged. I hope you’re encouraged. I hope this episode left you with more curiosity of ways that you can be an advocate of this plant. And if you ever have questions on how to get more involved, I know Andrew has made himself available. I’m always available too. So thanks for listening to this episode. We’ll be back next week with another one on Monday. Hope you guys have a good one. Take it easy. Bye. Love
this episode of To be blunt. Be sure to visit the Shayda Torabi comm slash To be blunt. For more ways to connect new episodes come out on Mondays. And for more behind the scenes follow along on Instagram at these Shayda Torabi
Transcribed by https://otter.ai