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Weed Warrior

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stephen D’Angelo has spent his adult life fighting to reform marijuana policy, runs the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the nation, and has a distinctive look, to boot (he favors natty suits and ties and wears his gray hair in two long braids, invariably topped by a fedora). So, this being 21st century America, it was only a matter of time before he snagged his own reality TV show: Weed Wars, which premiered on the Discovery Channel in 2011 and ran for one season.

D’Angelo’s Harborside Health Center, in Oakland, Calif., is a $22-million-a-year operation that’s served a reported 100,000 patients. California became the first state to legalize the medical use of marijuana, in 1996; it’s now legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia, including, as of January, Massachusetts. But California has also been the focus of pressure from the federal government, which has attempted to shut down dispensaries it says violate that state’s law, including Harborside. D’Angelo, who denies those charges, has vowed to keep his center open.

On Tuesday, April 2, D’Angelo will be in Amherst to speak about his experiences, as part of a lecture series sponsored by the UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition. The talk begins at 7 p.m. in Room 231 of UMass’ Herter Hall.

Dick Evans, a Northampton attorney and longtime marijuana reform activist, told the Advocate he considers D’Angelo “the tip of the spear that the voters and public opinion are thrusting into federal prohibition. He’s a brilliant and crazy and immensely courageous guy, fighting against brutal resistance from our own government for the right to earn a living providing medicine to sick people.”•

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