One Year After Raid, Oaksterdam University Still Not Charged With Anything

April 01, 2013

Jay Barmann, SFist

A year ago today, Oakland's pioneering Oaksterdam University was raided by DEA agents. Its vocal founder, millionaire activist Richard Lee, also saw his home raided, and subsequently he stepped down as leader of the school, allowing ownership of it and the associate marijuana dispensary, Coffeeshop Blue Sky, to be split among several employees. The school is now a fraction of the size it once was, though it's still operating, and curiously,

net/2013/04/02/after-the-raid-one-year-after-federal-agents-raided-oaksterdam-whats-changed/' target='_blank' title='Opens in a new window'>no charges have yet been filed against Lee or any of the people involved with Oaksterdam.

The University has now shrunk and relocated, with 15 to 20 faculty and employees down from a high of 100 last April. And enrollment is obviously smaller as well. The dispensary is no longer connected, business-wise, to the University.

While Lee or others still could face federal prosecution, it seems as though the entire raid was staged to make an example of the high-profile center of the cannabis industry that Lee had set up, and to show the city of Oakland that the government meant business when it comes to meting out federal law in the face of such blatant celebrations of semi-legal marijuana. As Oakland North reports, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag won't comment on the case, and there's little indication of how much further the Justice Department's 2011 statewide crackdown on the industry will go. Kris Hermes, media specialist for Americans for Safe Access, points out that post-crackdown, there are still well over 1,000 dispensaries operating statewide, and the industry is still "fairly robust ... [and] shows no signs of going away."

But state laws, and the even more liberal city ordinances like Oakland has — Oakland being the first municipality in the country, in 2009, to begin collecting tax revenue from licensed dispensaries and grow operations — continue to be in tension with the federal government, and the fate of medical marijuana feels uncertain, if not doomed. Meanwhile, you have Assemblyman Tom Ammiano proposing that the whole industry by regulated by the ABC, in anticipation of statewide legalization.

Oakland North is doing a whole series this week on Oaksterdam, following up tomorrow with more legal questions about the raid, and how the University has been doing over the last year. Stay tuned.



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