Colorados Lotus Medical

COLORADO'S LOTUS MEDICAL


For the latest installment of Green State Feature, The Austin420 recently caught up with the owner of Lotus Medical, a pair of medical cannabis wellness centers in the state of Colorado, just one of sixteen states that have passed medical cannabis into law. While Lotus Medical (Denver & Boulder, CO.) has often been described as “spa-like” and “healing”, owner Erik Santus and family, have put together a very comfortable, normal, and professional place, where professionals, younger adults and older adults, and virtually anyone are welcome to come in. Opening its doors in October 2009, amid an explosion of another 50 to 60 places, Lotus Medical first developed its overall vision by personal experience. My wife Shawna and her mom Vicki put together the overall feel and vision of both stores: the furniture, the photography, stuff like that. The girls, especially, really wanted it to be a place where single women could come in, whether they were 25 or 75, to ask questions and consult with us. My wife and I, had visited so many places before, where she just wouldn’t have felt comfortable going back by herself, so we decided to open up a place. At the same time, my mom was going through some cancer treatments, using medical cannabis as a replacement for a lot of the anti-nausea and sickness drugs that they were giving her, there’s like 5 or 6 to help with chemotherapy and radiation depending on what it is. So instead of taking all those pills which made her feel really weird, she would smoke or take a little edible and it kind of did the job of all those, making her feel in more normal of a mood.”

Colorado, in the laws of the state, is the only state in the United States and the only place in the world that recognizes the commercial growing of cannabis. “Nobody else really recognizes that.” Erik stated as I asked him about the differences between Colorado law and other medical cannabis states. “In the other states, you can get your card and grow some plants, but they don’t recognize the commercial growing on that level either, they left that out of the law and dispensaries just popped up. So, Colorado has a real good hold & structure on the growing of medical cannabis for the patients and everything in between. I think that really is a basis for the long term growth of the business. It’s set up more as a business here and that’s why the Department of Revenue controls all this, than it is in other states where it’s tough to say how long you’re going to be around the threat of local and federal government.”

While Lotus Medical offers just on a consulting basis, always welcome and open to speak about the industry, cannabis in general, getting your medical marijuana card, referring people to doctors and so on, they have come to understand that there still are a lot of people out there who are new to medical cannabis, people who just don’t understand, people who are simply scared. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing we do is offer that consulting. Obviously, we offer a lot of high quality products, edibles, and concentrates, hashes, flowers and stuff like that. We also have massages and Reiki instruction for the patients as well. The average age of our folks is probably like 30 to 45, 30 to 50, something like that. We do have some younger people that are in their 20s and we have some older folks too. We have a lot of people getting off opiate pain medication. They have a chronic pain situation, where something is wrong or broken and they have to take a pill to get rid of the pain or dull it down and they just get so addicted that they have to take so many, that after awhile they end up OD-ing, or it’s bad for their liver. A lot of the hash tootsie rolls we have called “Cheeba Chews” are highly concentrated with hash oil which really helps with a lot of the pain.”

“We’ve had nothing but good relationships with everything from police to lawmakers on the local and state level, lobbyists, to just any department that we’ve ever had to deal with.” responded Erik as I asked about the overall public acceptance of medical cannabis in Colorado. “I think everybody has been very respectable. What’s happened in the last 24 months, is a lot of the law enforcement went from angry (in the beginning) to relieved that this is something they don’t have to worry about and they can focus on more important things. That I think has been the biggest mental shift that I’ve seen over the last 24 months. Law enforcement was our biggest opponent in the beginning and I just don’t think that’s the case now. As the dust settled that was kind of the new way of thinking. That’s good for the business because it is a business. Frankly, the tax revenue and the fees that are collected on these businesses, is so amazingly huge that it’s replaced a huge chunk of the tax based revenue that was lost over the last 5 to 6 years. Local economies are starting to account for it down the road. They’re saying ‘Hey, in 2012, in 2013, here’s how we’re going to spend that medical cannabis tax money’ and when they say that kind of stuff, you have a good feeling that you’re going to be around for awhile and I think that’s why ‘the acceptance of the business’ is a little bit easier here because of that structure of revenue.”

In order for Medical Cannabis establishments to receive the respect of the community, they must be willing to give back to the community and Lotus Medical has been no exception, establishing a great repertoire among charitable organizations. “We do a lot of charity work.” explained Erik. “We have two charities (in our building) that we support. One is called Africade and the other one is called Net Results, which a young people’s tennis camp. We donate to a number of cancer foundations like Live-Strong and Breast Cancer. And then we do fundraisers like our 1st Annual Lotus Golf Tournament which was for a patient named Alyssa, a young lady who’s 26 and going through cancer. So we just try to support the local community; we’re part of the lower-downtown group, and so we support all of the historic buildings and the upkeep of those, and so we’re just trying to keep the neighborhood nice.”

The momentum behind the Medical Cannabis movement is crossing-over from state-to-state gaining a tremendous amount of people supporters every day, and though the journey is far from over, the support for Medical Cannabis legislation on a national level may be closer than what we think, maybe close enough to see in our own lifetimes. “In five years, I think it will be in more than half of the states. I think a lot of the states that have adopted laws over the last 2 or 3 years, and this year, are probably going to have some sort of cultivation and distribution system set up. So what I think you’ll see is an increased amount of taxes, fees, and revenue coming from these states that have Medical Cannabis. Hopefully, the states will be able to use it like Colorado does, to fill in the gaps where they have budget shortfalls because of the economy, the recession, and not having real estate taxes flowing.”

Having a compassionate connection with patients is extremely important because it shows that one understands the needs of the patient; it’s a relationship built on trust. Plus patients want to feel safe and welcome. They want to feel that what they are doing is normal and just a necessary part in tending and alleviating their pains. It’s these relationships that will inevitably build and lay down the foundation of what the future of medical cannabis & compassionate care will be, maybe not just in Colorado, but one day, throughout the country. “It’s awesome to have a really good connection with the folks that come in, and we have an enjoyable time being here and I think it shows. I think the feel of the place is extremely important. It’s extremely warm, inviting, and normal. It’s a normal place. We have a normal transaction when we do things with people. It’s not strange. You don’t feel like you’re buying drugs. It’s how it should be. I think that ‘normalcy’ is what attracts people and also what keeps our customers coming back.” ~

 


ERIK SANTUS

 


Harborside Health Center

HARBORSIDE HEALTH CENTER: WHERE PATIENTS COME FIRST!


The purpose behind GREEN STATE FEATURES is to showcase current medical cannabis entrepreneurs and establishments that are setting the foundation for secure and safe-access for medical patients in medical cannabis states (Green States). This can provide credible and realistic insight on how medical cannabis can be properly controlled and regulated within borders of any green state, and maybe one day, even in Texas. History is being made right before our eyes, so it only makes sense that we should learn from our fellow states about ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’, for it is these states who are leading the way for what compassionate care should be.

On April 13th, The Austin420 had an opportunity to speak with Stephen DeAngelo, an inspired and well-respected speaker with at least four decades of activism and advocacy in the cannabis reform movement. These days, what has brought Stephen DeAngelo to the fore-front of the medical cannabis movement, has been his vision and creation of Harborside Health Center (HHC) in Oakland, California, where safe access, compassionate and responsible use of (lab tested) high quality medicine is offered to patients in great need of relief from a wide range of medical conditions. “We see a huge range of different medical conditions here at Harborside.” Stephen stated. “Our patients come in all ages, with all medical conditions, all races. It’s really quite remarkable to see the diversity that’s present at Harborside. The medical conditions we work with range from very, very grave illnesses like Brain Cancer, and Multiple Sclerosis, and Cerebral Palsy. We have patients who arrive at Harborside in motorized wheelchairs and have a special lift that we use to lift them into the facility. We have other patients who are using cannabis for more of everyday ailments like insomnia, depression, stress, appetite issues. We’re fortunate here in California, that the law allows the doctor to authorize the use of cannabis for essentially any medical condition that it’s useful for.”

Born in Philadelphia in 1958, Stephen was raised in Washington DC where his father worked for the Kennedy administration. Influenced by his parents’ involvement in the Civil Rights movement and his experience when his dad worked for the Peace Corps from 1967 to 1969, at age 16 in 1974, Stephen dropped out of high school and joined the Yippies. He also became the key organizer of the annual July 4th marijuana Smoke-Ins in front of the White House. After spending many years as a street activist, learning about event planning, stage management, and promotions, he pursued a career in the music industry, becoming an independent concert promoter, nightclub manager and record producer. Arriving in California in 2001, he immersed himself into the local medical cannabis scene, becoming one of the original founding members of Americans for Safe Access (the premier advocacy group for medical cannabis patients). “I think that I would not have been able to do the Harborside project had I not had decades of cannabis activism under my belt. My activist perspective both informed what the vision of Harborside itself was, but more critically I think, it allowed me to interact with the city officials in Oakland and with the community in Oakland and it allowed me to be able to build a great deal of positive support for Harborside.”

Gaining recognition for its laboratory tested medicine, low income care package program, patient services such as, an Activism Program, a Cannabis Friendly Substance Misuse program, classes in Grow Your Own Medicine and Responsible Cannabis Use, to a free holistic care clinic, which offers 100% free services for therapies like chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, yoga, reiki, and nutritional counseling, Harborside has set a standard where the patient, indeed, comes first. In gaining this recognition, HHC has also gained a great respect from the community and law enforcement of Oakland as well. “We contribute to the community in a lot of different ways.” Stated Stephen. “We’ve got a great relationship with the Oakland Police Department. They have been through Harborside taking a look at our security measures and giving us advice on how to make our operation more secure. In return, I helped train some police officers in how to tell the difference between a legal medical cannabis transaction and an underground illegal cannabis transaction. We were just awarded a Golden Plate Award from the Alameda County Food Bank. We collected the largest amount of food of any organization in the county, collecting over 7500 pounds of food at the Alameda County Food Drive. We donate to local charities, community institutions like museums. We participate in the Mayor’s Queen of Oakland Program, so we have a team of employees designated to a part of the city that we clean up ourselves. Of course, we’re quite actively involved in all of the discussions that are going on in Oakland about the right way to license and regulate cannabis. So, I am frequently talking to city council members or appearing in front of the city council and giving our perspective, the patients’ perspective in those conversations.”

I have to admit how hopeful and inspired I became throughout the course of this interview. Gaining such insight was a blessing, especially from someone with such an extensive background in the movement. I asked Stephen about what advice he had concerning an individual wanting to create a clinic (in a green state that allows dispensaries) and wanted to follow the Harborside example. He replied, “For people who are considering getting involved with medical cannabis, I’d say, that the very first and most important thing to do is to develop a network of supporters in your community, to reach out to organizations and to individuals, especially those that you might not typically think support cannabis and try to develop a wide base of supporters as you can. The way that medical cannabis happens in communities is by building a very broad-based of community organizations that can play a very good ground-game. That’s what is really required to make progress on this issue.”

These days the issue of medical cannabis has progressed into a national debate, being taken on a more serious note than ever before, as the beneficial need for this medicine is only steadily growing greater throughout the nation. The only way we can obtain the change we are seeking is by working for that change, by exercising our right within the legislative process, and by showing proper etiquette in consideration for patients with legitimate debilitating conditions; patients who have a beneficial need for this medicine. “We have a problem in the United States with cannabis in general, being far too restricted, but the group that we need to take care of, first without question, are the medical cannabis patients. We need to get cannabis to the patients who are in most in need of it first! I also think that it’s very important that we address the stereo-typical images and language that’s used to describe cannabis. For example, you might notice that in the course of this interview, I’ve never said ‘marijuana’, or ‘pot’, or ‘weed’ or any other words like that. I’m very consistent. I use the word ‘cannabis’. The reason I use the word ‘cannabis’ is because that’s the scientific designation for the plant; by using the word ‘cannabis’ I remove the emotion and the distortion that goes along with those other types of terms. The people who come to Harborside who get their medicine are patients, not customers, they are patients. It’s also reflected in the way that we recruit and train our employees. At Harborside, we train our associates in an idea called Patient Care, Patient Care vs. Retail Sales, so we never up-sale a patient, we never rush through a transaction. Our staff is trained to a provide a calm and unhurried selection process for all patients and the success of that transaction is not determined by the amount of the transaction or by how quickly it happens, rather it’s determined by the degree of satisfaction that the patient has of that medicine once they take it home.”

The degree of professionalism at Harborside in providing lab tested medicine has enabled Stephen to create Steep Hill Labs in 2007, California’s premier medical cannabis analysis laboratory for safety screening and quality assurance. With 16 medical cannabis states, by law research can now be conducted and the sooner that this research is acquired, the sooner we can uncover the scientific truth about cannabis. What we’ve been stating all along, that Cannabis does indeed carry vital properties of therapeutic and medicinal value. “The testing program was designed just to ensure, at the most basic level, that the medicine we gave to patients was safe and that it didn’t have any dangerous contaminants in it, and we wanted patients to know how strong that medicine was before they purchased it. Beyond that, I have already learned some very interesting things in the course of the testing program. One of the first things we learned was that there was very little CBD in the medicine that was being presented to us by our patients. That was a great concern to us because there’s been so much research in the last few years about the medical benefits of CBD. So what we did in response to that was that we tested 2,000 strains of cannabis, found the 9 strains which have the largest quantities of CBD in them, provided cuttings of those strains to are most trusted growers and have those growers grow those strains out. So now, when patients come to Harborside, we always have at least 1 CBD-riched selection of medicine for them.”

I can’t say enough how inspiring and insightful this conversation with Stephen DeAngelo turned out to be. What has made Harborside Health Center (HHC) stand apart from all the others in Oakland has been their level of professionalism and most importantly, their level of compassion. To shed some light on them, only sheds light on what eventually could be, maybe even here in Texas one day. Harborside is a vision that became a reality and is now setting the standard of what the future of medical cannabis could look like.

Stephen thanked me for the time and closed with a final comment.

 “To all my brothers and sisters out there, in Texas, there is a huge amount of public support for cannabis. Even in Texas, a majority of people support medical cannabis. And so I encourage you to organize in your communities and when you’re ready, invite me down there, and I would be glad to come down to Texas and speak some truth to power.” ~

 

3

STEPHEN DEANGELO

 


Richard Lee

RICHARD LEE: THE MAN BEHIND PROPOSITION 19 & OAKSTERDAM UNIVERSITY

 

 

You may have seen him in documentaries on CNBC or in the pages of HIGH TIMES, but for those who are unaware of the California based marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, it’s time you learn of the man behind the now infamous Proposition 19 (California’s bill which would have allowed for the possession, cultivation, sale and taxation of cannabis to adults over 21).

Lee, who spearheaded the effort by donating $1.4 million of his own money/gathering the 700,000 signatures needed to get Prop 19 on the ballot. He began opening a number of commercially viable businesses in Oakland, which include two coffee-shops (one which is doubled as a medical marijuana vendor), a gift shop, a student union, political headquarters, and in 2007, Oaksterdam University. We, here at The Austin420, recently had the opportunity to speak with Richard Lee as he spoke on a few topics, including the philosophy behind the university and his thoughts on Proposition 19. “Oaksterdam University is a trade-school for the Cannabis industry. We teach students the politics and legal issues, which is the most important thing we teach, and also the quality of producing and distributing Cannabis. The most important thing is to give people a solid background, the politics and legal issues, so they can work within Cannabis prohibition and its laws.”

With limited resources, Lee and company, were able to build a powerful coalition of cops, moms, law professionals, liberals, libertarians, conservatives, civil rights leaders, and unions, all sharing the one common goal of being hungry for change. If there is any kind of inspiration we can take from this story, it’s the fact that we as individuals (in the case of medical marijuana) also possess the same power and human right to express ourselves and inevitably, make change occur (non-violently), especially if it’s for something we truly believe in and know is morally right. “You just have to get political. You have to work with your local city council, county supervisors, commissioners, and support good candidates, and work to not elect bad candidates. It takes a lot of courage and sacrifice for people to stand up, at some point. You know, risk their own freedom and everything to make it happen.”

In making people aware of medical marijuana and its benefits, it’s quite important that we as supporters & activists respect and abide within the political process that we’ve been given to make the change we are seeking. In the case of those who are sick and cope with a debilitating condition, those who can benefit from its therapeutic use, it’s up to us to also be that voice and speak on behalf of our own realities. There’s no better proof than real-life testimonials from real people with real conditions. “It helps to put an even face on the issue.” Lee stated. “When you have really compelling patients, and constituents or elected officials talking to them, then that really helps. Starting local organizations, you know, whether it’s a NORML Chapter, or your own organization, but, you can’t do it by yourself, you need to reach out, and find other people who are interested in the issue and want to work on the issue, like-minded individuals.”

The acceptance of medical marijuana today has greatly differed than in years past, in that now, 16 states have signed and passed medical marijuana initiatives into law, setting an example for many other states that have only become more open to the idea. States that include Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Delaware, who all have med-pot bills in the works. With today’s choices in what we listen to, in what we watch, in what we teach, the acceptance of medical marijuana in our culture today is no longer as taboo of a topic as once was. “I guess that just more people are aware as they have more friends and family who have medical conditions that Cannabis helps. You get more and more people who are aware of it on a personal basis, first-hand basis.”

On November 2nd 2010, all eyes were on California as all awaited the outcome of Proposition 19 at the polls. To be honest, marijuana wasn’t any more legal in California (or anywhere in the U.S.) on November 3rd than on November 2nd, and though some may choose to see this vote as a loss, this is actually a victory, as the momentum behind its legalization, will only carry on that much more into 2012. Losing by a 9% margin isn’t defeat, but is mere proof of the power of the legalization movement and how marijuana itself, has evolved into a mainstream political issue, despite the ingrained opposition. “It was a great victory in a lot of ways even though we didn’t win. You know, the issue was taken more seriously than it ever has been before. We learned a lot, which will help us win in 2012!”

As far as what this story could benefit to the movement here in Texas, if anything, it brings a sense of hope and inspiration to the fact that laws can change not just in California, but also throughout the rest of the country. And let’s not forget, that historically, things have started in California, just like the issue of medical marijuana and many other social rights issues. Special thanks to Richard Lee for taking the time to speak with us. For more information about Oaksterdam University go to www.oaksterdam.com~

 

RICHARD LEE