Richard Lee Quits After Pot Raid; Turning Over Oaksterdam


Jack Rikess
Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee at Tuesday’s protest in San Francisco against Monday’s federal raids in Oakland

Less than a week after federal agents raided cannabis training center Oaksterdam University, seizing property, marijuana plants, bank accounts, student records and computers, legendary founder Richard Lee has decided to quit the business.

Lee, 49, who the SF Weekly‘s Erin Sherbert calls “the most visible pot legalization advocate in the state,” told John Hoeffel of the Los Angeles Times that after 20 years, he decided it’s time for others to take over. He added that he’s concerned he could be facing federal drug charges after Monday’s raids of his university, his dispensary (Blue Sky Coffee Shop) and his home.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Lee said on Thursday. “Over 20 years … I kind of feel like I’ve done my time. It’s time for others to take over.”
“I never wanted to be the quote unquote leader of the legalization movement,” Lee told the Times. “I saw myself as just one small soldier in a big war. But I look at it as a battlefield promotion.”

Oaksterdam, first first cannabis trade school in the U.S., remains open for business, and Lee’s dispensary has also reopened. But Lee said he would transfer the businesses to new operators, and would close his marijuana nursery because his mother plants had been seized by the agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.
Lee said he would remain a marijuana advocate. “I believe that cannabis prohibition is unjust and counterproductive,” he said. “What I’ve done is ethical, and I tried to use the resources that I had to do everything I could to change the laws.”
“I will say to you, whatever happens, Oaksterdam will go on,” Lee had told Toke of the Town Northern California correspondent Jack Rikess at Monday’s protest in San Francisco.
Oaksterdam drew worldwide media attention after it opened in 2007, helping Lee promote medical marijuana as a legitimate business. A paraplegic who uses a wheelchair after an accident at his former job as a rock-band roadie, Lee spent more than $1.5 million out of his pocket trying to pass Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana in California in 2010.
Lee was detained during Monday’s raid by the DEA and IRS, but not arrested. Lee suggested on Thursday that if he is charged, it could become another major event in the march toward legalization and could turn even more Americans against the war on marijuana.
According to Lee, Oaksterdam has trained about 15,000 students on marijuana cultivation and activism.