By Chloe Aiello
Hot on the heels of Harborside's public debut on the Canadian Securities Exchange, co-founder Steve DeAngelo kicked off a new project with a very ambitious goal.
"So the idea, very simple, we want to get every single cannabis prisoner in the world out," DeAngelo told Cheddar.
Last Prisoner Project, which kicked off earlier this week, is DeAngelo's answer to that problem. The serial entrepreneur and long-time activist intends to enlist the help of major players in the cannabis industry to chip in for clemency petitions, retrial, re-sentencing, and record expungement for people serving time for cannabis-related crimes.
"I intend to accomplish that by going to the new cannabis industry and other people who have a heart and asking them how it would feel to them if they were sitting in a prison cell, looking out, and watching people build inter-generational wealth ー billions of dollars ー for doing exactly the same thing that they're in prison for," he said.
Although he wouldn't name names, DeAngelo said early support for the effort has been enthusiastic from "companies whose names you would recognize."
"The response has really been wonderful, I can't think of a single person who has said, 'no,'" he added.
The company is in pursuit of $100,000 in seed funding now ー Harborside is already one of the project's largest backers ー and plans to kick off additional fundraising efforts beginning this summer. DeAngelo added that most of the details are still in development.
Last Prisoner Project's mission fits easily into a national conversation about equity and expungement that is gaining steam as more states in the U.S. move to legalize cannabis. Activists have long maintained that those who have suffered most from cannabis criminalization ー mostly black and brown individuals ー should have a role in the growing cannabis industry, as well as having past convictions expunged. But those sentiments often clash with lawmakers and industry stakeholders. In New York and New Jersey, for example, recreational legalization efforts stalled in the spring in part over disagreements about expungement provisions.
"Trying to unroll something as deeply entrenched in America as racism requires a big push," DeAngelo said. "We don't have everything perfectly right yet, but the important thing is the intention to create not just a new industry, but a new kind of industry."
DeAngelo's company Harborside debuted on the Canadian Securities Exchange on Monday. The dispensary chain, which was among the first in the state to receive a medical marijuana license when the state legalized, is well-loved in California and tied closely to DeAngelo's activism. Although not much is static in the cannabis industry, DeAngelo said the transaction won't impact Harborside's values.
"What's going to stay the same are the values that Harborside exemplifies. And those values were taught to us by the plant: generosity, fairness, diversity, sustainability," he said.