“Father of Legal Cannabis” attributes industry sales spikes to plant’s therapeutic appeal

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Among the many things that the year 2020 could be remembered for, the coronavirus pandemic is sure to top the list. The COVID-19 vírus outbreak has torn through global economies and claimed millions of lives 1,466,743 as of November 30 but above all else, the cannabis industry seems to be surviving pretty well.

Back in March, when the U.S. really started reacting to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders were first imposed, cannabis sales saw a two-week spike. Factually, revenue increases are demonstrated in a newly-published white paper, titled “The State of the Cannabis Industry:2020.”

Beyond its existing uses, scientists are also exploring the potential of treating and preventing COVID-19 with the green plant. All things combined, there’s no wonder why a U.S. House to vote to end the federal ban on cannabis is scheduled to take place before the year is up.

I wanted to learn more about what’s likely behind the cannabis sales surge amid COVID-19, so I got in touch with Steve DeAngelo to glean his views on the topic. After all, who better to discuss the subject of cannabis and COVID-19 with than one of the most renowned cannabis rights activists in America?

Who is Steve DeAngelo?

He’s best known for being the co-founder of Harborside Health Center, in Oakland, California one of the first six licensed dispensaries in the United States and the setting for American reality-documentary television series WeedWars but there’s much more to Steve DeAngelo than his appearance on the Discovery Channel. 

The 62-year-old is a passionate cannabis advocate who previously scooped a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Cannabis Awards (CCAs). Some of his most notable achievements include founding the Last Prisoner Project, SteepHill Laboratory, Cannasure and The ArcView Group. He also made headlines when he successfully litigated against the Department of Justice (DOJ) DeAngelo put the brakes on the DOJ’s 2011 campaign to shutter California’s medical cannabis dispensaries. 

I asked DeAngelo what inspired him to become a cannabis activist. Here’s what he had to say:

“I fell in love with the plant as a young teenager and realized I would never give it up, but I didn’t want to spend my life hunted as a criminal. Legalizing cannabis was an imperative for my own happiness, and so I made it my mission. Then, as I educated myself and learned more about how and why cannabis had been made illegal, I became more angry with each fact I uncovered. That anger at being lied to about cannabis, and being lied to about all the misery that has flowed from those lies, is still with me today. And it will stay with me until the last cannabis prisoner comes home to their family.”

DeAngelo says people are turning to weed as a stress-reliever amid COVID-19

Sales of cannabis in the U.S have either remained fairly steady or surged since the COVID-19 outbreak, but why? DeAngelo ascribes the recent sales spikes to “the homeostatic effect of cannabis; the way it returns us to our place of natural balance.” 

He makes a valid point, considering the fact that the plant’s naturally-occurring cannabinoids can invoke therapeutic benefits for consumers. Various studies, such as this one, have proven the plant’s relaxing qualities.

“Cannabis reduces stress and rebalances us, so when we are feeling increased stress, we tend to consume more cannabis. Also, more people are working from home, for longer periods of time, so they have more opportunity to consume cannabis as well as this increased desire,” added DeAngelo, who noted that the industry has seen positive repercussions from being declared “essential business” in most places during the pandemic. 

Nonetheless, the grassroots community campaign organizer doesn’t think that the industry is capitalizing on COVID-19, so to speak. Instead, he says that cannabis businesses are “adapting” to what has been nicknamed “the new normal.”

“The cannabis businesses that remained open for the most part took appropriate precautions to protect staff and clients – like curbside delivery and reduced indoor capacity so I would say it is more a case of the industry adapting to COVID-19, rather than capitalizing on it.”

Biden election win beneficial for cannabis reform, says DeAngelo

As legal states rake in the revenue from cannabis sales, non-legal states see an opportunity to recover from the coronavirus-related economic glut with legalization. I questioned DeAngelo on the subject of cannabis reform, to which he responded by saying that the recent Biden election win is beginning to “push the trend in a more positive direction.”

“The main obstacles to cannabis reform in the United States will be die-hard Prohibitionist Republicans in the Senate, and their right-wing Democratic allies; possibly with assistance from the Biden administration,” DeAngelo said when asked what he considers to be the main obstacle(s) preventing cannabis legalization in the U.S.

Notwithstanding the hurdles that are yet to be overcome, DeAngelo feels confident that the Senate and President elect can be brought into compliance now that the people have spoken.

“Provided the House stays Democratic, I believe we have mostly won the debate there and we can see we have certainly won the debate in the states from the clean sweep of all five cannabis voter initiatives that were on both red and blue state ballots, from New Jersey to Mississippi,” he concluded.