Drug Policy

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:

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  1. Federal Boot: Looks like your speech is a little too free.

  2. The purpose of the raids hasn’t been disclosed…

    What a fucking mystery.

    Just guessing, but I would say their purpose was to bankrupt Mr. Lee and close down Oaksterdam.

    1. I’d be a little worried if I had ever been enrolled in the school at this point. The Fed’s know who you are.

  3. Funny how he wasn’t arrested… wouldn’t want the bad publicity generated by the video of paramilitary DEA goons packing a dude and his wheelchair into a paddy wagon. Instead confiscate all his stuff, make sure to break a lot of shit, intimidate, and make sure he goes broke by forcing him to lawyer up. In the end he will never be prosecuted, just made an example of. Here’s wishing ass cancer to Obama, holder and the DEA.

    1. You really need to be careful what kinds of things you wish on IMPORTANT PEOPLE. They might be watching.

  4. Sigh… Score another victory for the authoritarian asshats. Ass cancer is too good for these shitheads.

  5. If Eric Holder is to be trusted, he wasn’t in unambiguous compliance with state and local laws.

    1. Not true, presuming you are relying on the “Holder memo” representing DOJ intentions.

      As you can see by reading the memo, it essentially says nothing regarding DOJ intentions about medical marijuana.


      This little gem of a sentence comes near the end of the memo:

      “Nor does this guidance preclude investigation or prosecution, even when there is clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law, in particular circumstances where investigation or prosecution otherwise serves important federal interests.”

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