After federal agents swept across a formerly down-on-its-luck area of downtown Oakland, raiding the businesses owned by ganjapreneur Richard Lee which had revitalized the community, officials connected with Lee’s flagship Oaksterdam University vowed the cannabis college would reopen on Wednesday.
U.S. Marshals and agents from the IRS and DEA on Monday morning raided all of the downtown businesses connected to Lee, including Oaksterdam, the medical marijuana dispensary Coffeeshop Blue Sky, and a plant nursery connected to the dispensary, reports Chris Roberts at SF Weekly.
The federal agents didn’t get a friendly reception. Jeering protesters — at least 100 of them, and probably far more than that — loudly expressed their disapproval of the raid as the agents carried filing cabinets, bags and stacks of evidence to waiting vehicles (many of which had no license plates, in violation of California law).
“Fuck off!” many in the crowd yelled. “DEA go away!”
|Federal agents raid Oaksterdam University
“We sort of expected this in 2010 — not 2012,” said Jeff Jones, who, with Lee, supported Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California in 2010. Jones is proprietor of the nearby Patient ID Center, which processes medical cannabis cards on the same block of downtown Oakland known as Oaksterdam.
IRS agents had audited Lee, who spent more than a million dollars out of his own pocket to finance and qualify Prop 19 in 2010.
Lee was detained at his home, then released. No arrests were made, and federal agents said the reasons for the multi-agency raid are sealed by a judge. It’s not clear if federal authorities plan to charge Lee with any crimes.
Oaksterdam will try to hold final classes for the semester on Wednesday as if nothing is amiss, even though the final class project — a crop of marijuana, ready for harvest, intended for a multiple sclerosis patient — was stolen, I mean “seized,” by federal agents.
The cannabis plants that were to be the students’ final project was intended for Yvonne Westbrook White, who has MS, according to Oaksterdam Executive Chancellor Dale Sky Jones, who is married to Jeff Jones.
Whether the Coffeeshop Blue Sky dispensary will reopen remains unclear, as do the longer-term repercussions of the raid and its possibly chilling effect on the medicinal cannabis movement.
“I know Richard’s a fighter,” said Sky Jones. “If I were a betting woman, I’d bet Blue Sky will reopen.
Enrollment had fallen at Oaksterdam since the federal government’s medical marijuana crackdown began last October, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Some strategists had advised Lee back in 2010 to wait until 2012 to run Prop 19, since presidential election years are traditionally more friendly to liberal initiatives. This year, several efforts to put legalization back on the ballot appear to be out of funds.