Oaksterdam University Pledges to Re-Open After Federal Raid on Marijuana Leader

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Indybay.org
The main man
What many saw as the inevitable hit Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee on Monday, when federal agents came knocking at the home and businesses of the man who has become the marijuana movement's de-facto figurehead.

After Lee revived a moribund part of downtown Oakland with a school dedicated to the pot trade, and used proceeds from the business to try to legalize marijuana with Proposition 19 in 2010, U.S. Marshals and agents from the IRS and DEA raided all of the downtown Oakland businesses connected to "General" Lee: Oaksterdam University, medical marijuana dispensary Coffeeshop Blue Sky, and a plant nursery connected to the dispensary.

"We sort of expected this in 2010 -- not 2012," said Jeff Jones, proprietor of the nearby Patient ID Center and co-proponent of Prop. 19. Following Prop 19's historic defeat, federal prosecutors had forced Blue Sky to relocate once, and IRS agents had audited Lee, who spent over $1 million of his own money to put Prop. 19 on the ballot.

Lee was detained at his home and released. No arrests were made, and federal agents said the search warrant and reasons for the raid are sealed by a judge.

The school will attempt to hold final classes for the semester as scheduled on Wednesday, even though the final project -- a crop of marijuana ready for harvest, intended for an MS patient -- was seized by authorities. Whether Blue Sky will reopen -- and what effect the raids will have on the movement -- is still unclear.

Dozens of federal agents broke down doors in a pre-7 a.m. raid and spent the morning seizing university records, growing equipment, computers, and an unknown amount of marijuana from Oaksterdam's Broadway campus. The feds also snatched the final project for students whose last class is Wednesday, according to Oaksterdam spokeswoman Dale Sky Jones, executive chancellor of the university.

In prying open gates and doors a the school and the nearby Oaksterdam museum and gift shop, agents caused "tens of thousands" of dollars of damage, said Jones, but did not disturb the museum's collection of vintage hemp products and 19th-century medical cannabis artifacts.

It's not clear if federal authorities plan to charge Lee with crimes. A spokeswoman with the DEA told media on Monday that all details were under a judge's seal.

Lee did not return messages left on his cell phone, and his counsel, San Francisco-based attorney Laurence Lichtor, was traveling and could not be reached.

Lee, a prominent Oakland citizen, had headed up his neighborhood's public safety committee and also sat on the committee that oversaw the implementation of Measure Z, the 2004 Oakland law that made adult use of cannabis the lowest priority for law enforcement. The measure has also led to the opening of several so-called "Measure Z" clubs, which dispense marijuana without requiring a doctor's recommendation. It was rumored a Measure Z club was connected to Oaksterdam, but it could not be confirmed if it was open on Monday.

Enrollment had fallen at Oaksterdam since the federal government's crackdown began last October, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Speaking on Lee's behalf, Jones predicted Blue Sky, one of Oakland's four registered and taxpaying medical marijuana dispensaries, would also reopen.

"I know Richard's a fighter. If I were a betting woman, I'd bet Blue Sky will reopen," said Jones, who said the raids on Lee are a continuation of federal activity against the movement's visible leaders. Federal activity also shut down a cooperation between county sheriffs and growers in Mendocino County as well as hundreds of dispensaries across the state (five in the Bay Area, but nearly all dispensaries in San Diego and Sacramento counties).

The crop from the pot plants that were to be students' final project was intended for Yvonne Westbrook White, who has multiple sclerosis, Jones said. "They're going after the people telling everyone to pay their taxes and respect the law," she said. "This is an attack on the leader of the movement."

Despite losing 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent, Prop. 19, the effort to allow adult Californians to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana, no doctor's recommendation necessary, still served as a highwater mark for the marijuana legalization movement. Spending a total of $3.4 million -- including over $1 million from Lee -- Prop. 19 won more votes than for GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.

Some marijuana advocates had asked Lee to wait until 2012. This year, multiple efforts to put
a successor measure on the ballot appear stalled out for lack of funds.

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9 comments
Cannabis_College
Cannabis_College

yea yea yea, whatever.  Hate to mention it but, he had it coming.  We all have it coming sooner or later.  He's been profiting from teaching people how to open dispensaries and what not and it was all good.  But, as soon as the feds hit him, he packed his shit and left...true advocate doesn't run away like he did.  http://californiamarijuanacollege.com

Ken Gunderson
Ken Gunderson like.author.displayName 1 Like

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."Albert Einstein

Ken Gunderson
Ken Gunderson

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."Albert Einstein

Kev Ba
Kev Ba

This really sucks !!!!   I take 15 pills a day , Praying one day in my state they would have things like Oaksterdam , So I can learn how to grow medical cannabis and stop taking all these pills ....  The federal Government should go raid the boarders to keep the illegal cannabis thats coming into this country, and bust them cause the are bringing cannabis in to this country and no jobs and no tax money and only more crime,come's out of it !!!  Smart move Federal Government , Bust the honest tax payers and job creators instead .......

Jim Samson
Jim Samson

Brother, can you off a pig for me?

malcolmkyle
malcolmkyle

Excerpts from the Australian Drug Policy report titled: "The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are all letting it happen." 

“For us, when we lost our son, we did not seek sympathy, we saw the injustice and craziness of our drug laws. We wanted people to focus on that, not on our suffering.” – Marion and Brian McConnell are founding members of 'Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform'. 

“Many people who think of themselves as the beneficiaries of prohibition are really net losers. Parents are much more at risk of losing their children under prohibition than they would be if there was some kind of system where we had some measure of control over illicit drugs.” – Hon Professor Peter Baume AC, Former Chancellor of the ANU and Minister for Health in the Fraser Government 

“I think the idea that prohibition kills is an important one. So my plea is how can we get governments to buy into this issue? I think they need to see that what they are doing and not doing, is causing a lot of the harms. At some stage they have to be held accountable for allowing this to happen.” – Hon Professor Geoff Gallop AC, Former Premier of Western Australia

“What we want governments to do is feel quite uncomfortable about the predicament they have put us in. They are running a system that is causing a whole lot of harm." - Hon Michael Moore, CEO Public Health Association of Australia and former Minister of Health for the ACT

“I am strongly in favour of legalising, regulating, controlling and taxing all drugs." - Nicholas Cowdery AM QC Director of Public Prosecutions for NSW from 1994 to 2011 

“The key message is that we have 40 years of experience of a law and order approach to drugs and it has failed.” - Hon Dr Michael Wooldridge, Former Health Minister in the Howard Federal Government

"The current policy of prohibition discredits the law, which cannot possibly stop a growing trade that positively thrives on its illegality and black market status. Like the failure of the prohibition of alcohol in the USA from 1920 to 1933, the current prohibition of illegal drugs is creating more harms than benefits and needs to be reconsidered by the Australian community."

"The move against prohibition is gathering momentum in other countries across the ideological spectrum as communities around the world place responsibility for the costs of prohibition where it belongs: with those legislators who continue, by default, to support the international prohibition approach."

"Beneficiaries of the current approach include the law enforcement industry, those who benefit from the occupancy of prisons and a thriving insurance industry that insures residents for the high rates of household crime. The converse of this is that law-abiding citizens are the biggest losers."

"Because the issue is trivialised in sound bites such as “Tough on Drugs” or “Soft on Drugs” the realities of prohibition are not seriously discussed and the major harms that result from this failed policy are not being addressed."

"By maintaining prohibition and suppressing or avoiding debate about its costs and benefits, it can be argued justifiably that our governments and other influential sectors of the community are standing idly by while our children are criminalised."

"It is time to reactivate Australian debate on this matter, drawing attention to the accountability of governments for allowing an unacceptable situation to persist , and the fact that the community has allowed this to happen."

Kushmen
Kushmen

kill all pigs !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tim Giangiobbe
Tim Giangiobbe

"Peace is not merely some distant goal we seek but a means in which we arrive at that goal. " MLKBut wicked witches like Melinda Haag need a brutal afterlife. Key words after. Life. As in drop dead bitch. We really can't have Federal prosecutors like you. It's clearly Grand Standing for Attorney General Selfish Political posturing 

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