Did This White Weed Businessman Just Get a New California Bill Written to Benefit Him?

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In California, medicinal weed is legal, but the business bans anyone with a drug-related criminal record from working in the industry. This of course means that people of color are—yet again—systematically shut out of economic advancement, while white people get an implicit leg up. Take for example the white weedman Steve DeAngelo, who, according to Buzzfeed, might have just ushered in new legislation that specifically and primarily benefits him.


We’ve previously covered the racial skew of America’s growing legalized weed economy. It’s not that white people ever abstained from selling drugs or doing drugs, but that they have always been arrested and convicted at disproportionately low rates. People with weed convictions, who tend to be black and male, have to convince a board that they’ve been “rehabilitated” from a crime that every group in society partakes in—and the parameters of this “rehabilitation” are never a sure thing.

In February, the California Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) proposed a bill that would allow people with a certain kind of drug-related crime on their record to join the weed business without interference. Via BuzzFeed:

It would prohibit the state from denying a license to drug felons who meet three very specific criteria: First, the conviction must have occurred out of state. Second, the conviction must not have resulted in jail time. And third, the felon must also be approved by a local licensing body.

DeAngelo, who has licenses to run his Harborside Health Centers in San Jose, San Leandro and his flagship in Oakland, meets all of these qualifications, and spent $10,000 late last year convincing the state legislature and governor’s office that the current medical marijuana laws are too restrictive. In 2001, DeAngelo caught a felony charge for distribution and possession of cocaine and marijuana in Maryland and was convicted of possession with intent to distribute weed. He was given several years probation and a five-year suspended sentence, but that conviction prohibited his business partner, his brother, from garnering a medical weed license in Massachusetts.

DeAngelo seems very press-savvy, and good at playing the non-threatening, white, 57-year-old dude with good bud, good vibes and good intentions. He insists that he didn’t get this legislation written for him.

“I don’t want a Steve DeAngelo clause,” DeAngelo told BuzzFeed News. “They may have thought by crafting something like this that it would win my support, but we are not backing this approach. Of course Steve DeAngelo is going to get a license. Steve DeAngelo is white. He is articulate, and he’s able to present his case. What I’m concerned about is all the black and brown people who have been arrested at wildly disproportionate rates.”

Word? Well, if he’s so concerned about the disparity, why not lobby for a law that also dismisses drug-related crimes inside California and allows former felons to work? Amanda Chicago Lewis reports that DeAngelo’s also said a few things that don’t dovetail with this narrative; he’s wanted to limit the number of competing weed shops in Oakland, among other things. Read the story here.

Image via Getty.


Rando Calrissian

This is like the Captain Planet of racism:

1: arrest people of color more than whites for the same drug related crimes

2: incarcerate people of color disproportionately and longer than anyone else

3: rise to prominence using historic white wealth while people of color have been historically barred from investing or owning property in this country

3a: if not from wealthy white background, enjoy evading scrutiny because white

4: use connections with predominantly white legislators to influence, bribe, or flat out corrupt them

5: get a law put in place to eliminate many people of color from any legitimate profits from drug production and sales on the basis of the racism of step 1