Oaksterdam Founder: 'Federal Raids Galvanize the Public to Action'

Despite the incessant federal attacks on marijuana, the nation's most prominent medical cannabis activist remains optimistic.

On Thursday, Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University announced to the Los Angeles Times that he “plans to give up ownership of his Oakland-based marijuana businesses after a federal raid this week seized many of their assets, including plants, bank accounts, records and computers.”

"I’ve been doing this for a long time," Lee said, "over 20 years.... I kind of feel like I’ve done my time. It’s time for others to take over."

In spite of the raids and the risk of facing serious federal drug charges, Lee said Oaksterdam University and his dispensary will remain open. The marijuana training school will be handed over to new operators, but his marijuana nursery will have to close due to federal confiscation of his mother plants.

Lee says he will remain a medical marijuana advocate and continue fighting for its legalization, but the fight is one he cannot win alone. Lee told the Times that he “never wanted to be the 'leader of the legalization movement,'” but rather one “small solider in a big war.”

Lee has been one of the most prominent activists for medical marijuana, spending more than $1.5 million in 2010 to support Proposition 19.

In an interview with NORML on Thursday, Lee lamented the increasing number of IRS tax charges against members of the medical marijuana industry. The government “can’t have it both ways” by demanding taxes on an illegal product, he said. “No taxation without legalization!”

Lee remains optimistic despite the incessant federal attacks on marijuana, claiming that the attacks will only invigorate the public to fight back: “As bad as this was for Oaksterdam, it will be a good thing for the bigger war...and get people more active in politics and changing the law.”

Richard Lee has started a petition on Change.org, demanding the Obama administration end the war on medical marijuana and keep his campaign promises. The petition is below, and you can sign it here.

From Richard Lee:

On Monday, April 2, my school — Oaksterdam University in Oakland — was raided by the DEA, IRS, and US Marshals. Oaksterdam provides training to the medical cannabis industry, and is fully compliant with state and local law.

President Obama promised at the beginning of his administration to respect state medical marijuana laws. He has broken this promise time and time again — and the consequences have been devastating.

This was a senseless act of intimidation. But I’ve been an activist far too long to become intimidated — and with the majority of Americans and common sense on our side, I know this is a fight we can win.

With our government trillions in debt, why is our government using taxpayer dollars to come after me, Oaksterdam, and the thousands of patients who need medical marijuana just to get through the day?

Tell President Obama and the DEA: Enough is enough. Keep your campaign promise, and stop the raids on the medical cannabis industry!

Sign the petition!


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