Cannabis Activists Push for Psychedelics Renaissance

Steve DeAngelo and Adam Eidinger fight for psychedelics.

As the psychedelics industry’s disagreements with the federal government on a variety of issues continue to rage, the fight to make things right between the citizens of this country and their duly-elected officials over a federally illegal plant has been taken up by some of the same activists who led the charge for cannabis.

Two of the key players for both industries are Steve DeAngelo and Adam Eidinger.

Steve DeAngelo takes on California

Steve DeAngelo

Medical cannabis had been legalized in the state for 10 years before the first medical dispensary, Harborside in Oakland, in the country opened its doors in 2006. by the time Harborside was up and running.

But operations were anything but easy at the time. Co-founder Steve DeAngelo had to fight to keep his medical cannabis business open during the early days, because the laws about the legality of medical cannabis were still being interpreted. Authorities wanted to shut down Harborside, but DeAngelo eventually prevailed in a court battle.

After voters chose to legalize recreational cannabis in California in November 2016, DeAngelo sold the first gram of legal cannabis to an adult in California on Jan. 1, 2018. Now Harborside is one of the most well-known and profitable recreational dispensaries in the country.

DeAngelo went on to help found the National Cannabis Industry Association and is the founder of the Last Prisoner Project, a project to release all prisoners with cannabis convictions. Speaker of the California Assembly and mayor of San Francisco Willie L. Brown Jr. called DeAngelo the “Father of the legal cannabis industry.”

Adam Eidinger tackles D.C.

Adam Eidinger

Around the same time that DeAngelo was fighting on the West Coast, another cannabis activist, Adam Eidinger, was dealing with two locations of his hemp clothing business getting shut down in Washington, D.C., after a coordinated police raid in October 2011.

D.C. police said that Eidinger was selling drug paraphernalia and confiscated $3,000 worth of his smoke products. Authorities threatened to take the remaining $350,000 of inventory unless he closed his business down. Eidinger complied.

He was arrested, along with five of his employees, and claimed the raid was politically motivated.

The whole incident got him fired up to get more deeply involved with activism for the legalization of cannabis. It was Eidinger and others who created Initiative 71 that legalized recreational cannabis consumption and possession – but not retail purchase – in D.C. in 2014.

More than 70% of D.C. voters said yes to the initiative.

That overwhelming success of that initiative helped make Eidinger known as the activist who gets things done fighting the feds. Eidinger and his advocacy organization, DCMJ, have since become hometown heroes to cannabis consumers, in part for his social disobedience protests for many other non-cannabis causes.

When he was arrested for protesting the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in September 2002, Eidinger sued the city for wrongful arrest. He, along with six others, was awarded $425,000 and received a written apology from the D.C. chief of police.

“At some point, protest is the only option left,” Eidinger wrote on his Twitter account.

Psychedelics are on the same sort of the same legal-limbo trajectory as cannabis was back in the early part of this century. And right there pushing for legalization is Eidinger.

On May 9, he and 16 others were arrested for staging another bit of civil disobedience, this time at the DEA headquarters, which was livestreamed on Facebook.

The group was protesting the DEA’s foot-dragging on allowing certain cancer patients to try psilocybin based on Right to Try laws. The DEA denied the use because it is a Schedule I status. Advocates say that the DEA has “exceeded its authority” and “intrudes on a state-protected right.”

“The people in this building forgot who they work for,” Eidinger said during the protest. “This agency works for the people, not the government,” he said.

The Homeland Security police gave the group three warnings, then began arrests. The protestors calmly complied. Everyone involved in the nonviolent civil disobedience at the DEA was charged with trespassing and released with a court summons for May 19, according to a tweet from Right to Try.

“Note some of the zip ties,” Eidinger tweeted. “Proof federal protective services didn’t make the cuffs tight due to their sympathy to the issue and attempts to negotiate with DEA for a meeting about Right to Try.”

“We are going to come back to the DEA on the one-year anniversary of this protest,” Eidinger told Psychedealia.

He said that he is watching how Oregon’s Measure 109, the only legalized psilocybin program in the country, is rolling out in Oregon.

“You’re making psilocybin available to people that do things by the book,” he said. “There are a lot of older folks that really do want to try this.”

Other activism

There is more psilocybin activism across the country, other rebels behind the renaissance. For example, activists in Colorado successfully got a measure for a legalized psilocybin program on the November ballot.

Meanwhile, Eidinger and DeAngelo are still hard at work on their causes, most recently in a protest held at the White House on Oct. 24 to hold the Biden administration accountable for the mass release of cannabis prisoners that was recently promised.

They brought out their familiar prop, a 50-foot inflatable joint, which Eidinger and DCMJ have been using for years in their ongoing protest of cannabis rules and regulations.

There will be other protests in more cities, likely again for Right to Try and more about access and legalization of therapeutic psychedelics.

Psilocybin, and the right to try, are now firmly on Eidinger’s agenda. He sees the injustice. He has joined the fight. Eidinger won’t stand still and won’t be quiet. That’s how a lifelong activist lives.

Dave Hodes

David Hodes is a business journalist based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. He has contributed feature articles to several cannabis and psychedelics publications, as well as general business/lifestyle publications, on a variety of topics. Hodes was selected as 2018 Journalist of the Year by Americans for Safe Access. He is a member of the National Press Club, and the deputy booking agent for the National Press Club Headliners Committee.


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