Raid on Oaksterdam and Richard Lee: Trying to Cut Down the Tallest Blade of Grass


Published: 04/19/2012

by Theodore Hartman


Oaksterdam Raid

On the 2nd of April authorities of the federal government including officers of the U.S. Marshals, the DEA, and IRS raided Oaksterdam University; they also held the founder of the University Richard Lee though he was released. Authorities also conducted raids on other dispensaries owned by Lee and his home. While the Authorities took computers materials and other things they haven’t commented on whether any crimes were committed. Oaksterdam university is a place were students can learn all kinds of things relating to the cannabis industry from how to grow cannabis, cannabis laws, and the politics and issues surrounding cannabis and how students can run and manage dispensaries. This raid on seemingly a few dispensaries owned and operated by a highly visible advocate who spearheaded a very robust campaign with prop 19 comes in the wake of the federal governments crackdown, but to date has to be the most curious case so far and is evident of the what the U.S. Attorneys, and the federal governments intentions are with the crackdown.


The most evident thing about the raid on Oaksterdam is that they hope to dissuade Richard Lee from his effective advocacy and his campaigns and initiatives. Oaksterdam University has served as a major central hub of the cannabis legalization movement, not too mention for the government the act of teaching people how to grow cannabis for patients and manage dispensaries well so the medicinal cannabis community can have dispensaries that are well run by people who have been taught does not serve to limit dispensaries or promote the idea that dispensaries are not safe places. It also makes it harder for the government to conduct its raids politically. Yes this seems to be the point behind shutting down Oaksterdam because it serves best to show the potential of medicinal cannabis and dispensaries as safe well run places, but it also promotes a positive image for cannabis to the whole country. The publicity Oaksterdam and Richard Lee must have garnered from the prop 19 campaign alone would put them square in the governments sights. Also what this raid represents they are not shutting down a single dispensary which could be in many cities they raided a place that was started by a very vocal advocate.


The most dangerous thing about an attack on a place like Oaksterdam and a person like Richard Lee is that subconsciously if they can get they’re message resonating by conducting more raids and really silence key leaders then government may also be able to convince 10 to 15% of the American public that cannabis is in fact truly not medicine. Then they make it easier to close the next dispensary and the next dispensary after that; quickly you can begin to realize why a raid on Oaksterdam would occur.


Richard Lee’s Prop 19 also probably had much to do with why they even raided a place like Oaksterdam. Prop 19 would have legalized cannabis for recreational use in California and it had clear rules. While it didn’t pass Prop 19 is policy that would have created all kinds of problems for the federal government. Prop 19 could very well have brought about a core debate on states and individuals rights per the 10th amendment as a state would have permitted something the federal government prohibits, but had it been passed by voters it would have raised a question as to whether the federal governments stance concerning cannabis could supercede a state or individuals right to use cannabis in the state where it is legal in the state.


All in all raiding Oaksterdam seems to be a pretty provocative act by the federal government which up until now seemingly has tried to keep the closure of dispensaries relatively quiet. So raiding a center for the legalization community and one of its leaders in such a manner is quite telling of intentions of the president’s administration, the U.S. attorneys, and federal agencies.


Since the raid occurred Richard Lee has said he will step away from his businesses as the federal raids have left him bankrupt. And still the reason for the raids has not been disclosed. Though Richard Lee says he will continue on with his advocacy and that it is better as he facing this legal situation. And the people at Oaksterdam are trying to get things back to normal though it is difficult and honor students. As well they plan to hold scheduled seminars, and are encouraging new students to attend as it will help them as they recover.