Oaksterdam Founder, Prop. 19 Funder, Driven Out of His Peaceful, Productive Business by Government


From Huffington Post:

The founder of a Northern California medical marijuana training school said Friday he was giving up his downtown Oakland-based pot businesses after a federal raid bankrupted him.

Richard Lee has been instrumental in pushing for ballot measures to legalize the drug, giving more than $1.5 million as the lead financial backer of a 2010 initiative to legalize the drug in the state. He said he will now focus solely on his advocacy work.

"I am now in this legal situation, so it's better for me to step aside," Lee said.

Internal Revenue Service and Drug Enforcement Administration agents on Monday raided Oaksterdam University, Lee's home and a medical marijuana dispensary he also founded. The purpose of the raids hasn't been disclosed…

Federal prosecutors in San Francisco, who have been leading a months-long crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Lee said he was not interrogated but simply detained while the agents conducted the raids. He was not arrested.

Lee said his decision to step back from the businesses was not part of any deal with investigators.

"We don't know if it will make any difference at all to them," he said.

Mike Riggs blogged about the raid last week. I wrote about the saga of Lee's Proposition 19 in Reason's February 2011 issue.

Despite the raid, and before Lee's announcement he's leaving his leadership role, Oakland North wrote of the Oaksterdam crew's efforts to keep going:

For Oaksterdam employees, the question is what comes next. Jones said all of the employees "lost their jobs" when the raid happened because as [executive chancellor Dale Sky] Jones said, Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee "can't guarantee any of us have a paycheck." The former employees now have to volunteer to work at the training center or the dispensary located two blocks north on Broadway, which was also raided. Jones said the dispensary re-opened Tuesday with the help of "local patient cultivators that understood our collective needed to be replenished. And they came through.

Reason.tv went to Oaksterdam in better times: