Oaksterdam University Goes Volunteer-Only, Future Uncertain

Categories: Marijuana
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Oaksterdam University
Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam's new chief
The federal Justice Department does not yet have Richard Lee's head. But in the wake of a multi-agency raid on Oaksterdam University, they have his business.

The "cannabis college," Oakland's best known institution of higher learning -- sorry, Mills, but you don't teach people to grow weed -- is now volunteer-only, with teachers, staff, and administrators working for free after IRS and DEA agents seized records, computers, and plants from the downtown Oakland campus during an April 2 raid.

Lee stepped down, and former executive Dale Sky Jones, a familiar face in the movement, will take his place, according to Oakland North. But affairs are far from being in order, and the future of the university appears grim.

Lee was the target of IRS activities for several years; he was briefly detained by authorities at his apartment during the raid, but he has not yet been charged with any crimes. He has been the marijuana legalization movement's de facto leader since bankrolling 2010's Proposition 19, putting the measure on the ballot with $1.5 million -- cash that had been earned by Oaksterdam University.

The school, which was founded in 2007 and helped to transform a near-dead area of downtown Oakland into a vibrant, if not active, commercial corridor, is expected to announce this change at an 11 a.m. press conference today.

Jones -- who is married to Jeff Jones, director of the Oakland Patient ID Center and a co-sponsor with Lee of 2010's Prop. 19 -- confirmed her appointment to Oakland North on Tuesday afternoon.

At one time, Oaksterdam University had locations in Los Angeles and Michigan. Both have since closed down due to "financial problems."

The school laid off its 45 employees following the April 2 raid because there was "no more money," Lee told media.

School officials, including Jones, pledged classes will go on with energy donated by volunteer instructors, and cash donations to cover bills. The school is looking for a new location as the lease on the current 30,000-square foot building expires at the end of the month, Jones said.

But for now, much appears uncertain. Once-paid instructors like Ed Rosenthal, a famous marijuana horticulturalist, remain uninvolved as Oaksterdam determines its next move.

"If they want me to teach, I'll teach," Rosenthal said Tuesday, appearing at a meeting of Americans for Safe Access's San Francisco chapter, clad in an Oaksterdam University hooded sweatshirt and jacket. "But I'm not involved in any decisions."

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Dennis Lehnst
Dennis Lehnst

This Country is watching and judging.  The business of cannabis transformed a beaten down section of the city. Is this not a good thing?  Business's flurished, knowledge flowed, people loved it and they supported it.  This is what our Federal Government seeks to put an end to.  Do they really want the area to return to crime and homeless people?  What the hell are they out to prove by this wholesale act of stupidity?  We the People need to take these self-serving pieces of feces out of office.  Prohibition has created a massive jobs program for our government and for our police forces and they seem not to understand yet that over 50% of Americans WANT the business of cannabis. Next year it will be 60% and Yes, many of you will lose your job when marijuana is legalized and potheads everywhere will rejoice and dance in the streets because of that.  The People want cannabis...  They want the flower business, the medicine business,  the seed business, the oil business and the fiber business.  They want a choice and I very much doubt that anything, anyone, can stop what is coming down the the tracks. Alcohol has killed and harmed enough of us that the People are demanding an safer alternative.  They are demanding a change in our draconian laws that seek to punish the People for wanting such a change.  Responsible adults want the government and police out of their homes, their medicine cabinets and their gardens and out of their personal decisions.  It seems we have had enough.

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