Federal Agents Raid California’s Center for ‘Higher Learning’

Agents from the DEA and the IRS raided Oaksterdam University, the world’s first medical cannabis educational center.

On April 2 federal agents from the DEA, the IRS, and U.S. Marshals raided Oaksterdam University, the first cannabis therapeutics training center in the world. The medical cannabis educational center was founded by activist Richard Lee--who helped to put the Proposition 19 measure on the California ballot. (Proposition 19 was an attempt to legalize recreational cannabis in the Golden state that almost succeeded in the last election, with 46.5% voting in favor of the measure.) Lee’s home was also raided.

Even more chilling was that, as the raid on Oaksterdam University was occurring, only a few miles away a gunman opened fire at the private Oikos University in Oakland, killing seven innocent people and wounding three others. With these two incidents occurring simultaneously, just a few miles apart, one just has to ask: Could these deadly shootings have been prevented if the federal government had been more focused on preventing violent crime than on suppressing valuable knowledge about a medicinal plant?

The raid infuriated many of the local Oakland residents who protested with such fury that riot police had to be called in--although there was no violence--and lawmakers from five states that allow medical marijuana wrote a public letter to the federal government telling them to back off and leave medical marijuana patients, collectives, and educational centers alone. 

I wish that the lawmakers would have said “leave them the hell alone,” just to ensure that there would be no future misunderstandings about what was actually being communicated in their message, but I understand the necessary constraints that our elected officials needed to exercise.

However, numerous newspaper editorials spoke out against this draconian government action taken on Oaksterdam University--and the slew of federal raids over the past few months on medical cannabis dispensaries in California--with less restraint, as these misguided actions represent a stark break from President Obama’s stated campaign promise in 2008 to not prosecute medical marijuana users who comply with state law. 

Many people have been more than disappointed by Obama’s complete turnaround on this important medical issue. Obama’s promise to leave medical cannabis patients alone was one of the primary reasons that I voted for him in the last presidential election, and although I’m not terribly surprised by his broken promises, I’m certainly disappointed.

Nonetheless, I’m still more than hopeful about the future of medical cannabis. 

A lot of people are rightfully outraged about the federal government’s recent raids on California’s compassionate health centers that offer new hope, and bring enormous relief, to the most ill members of our population. I’m outraged too. However, I also see this most recent raid as a good sign, and I could not be more optimistic about the future of cannabis-based medicine, as--in this day and age--the truth is pretty difficult to hide for very long.

It appears that the federal government is getting desperate in its misguided attempt to suppress accurate and truthful information about cannabis, as this recent raid on an educational institution--that taught cannabis growers and dispensary owners how to legally operate within California state guidelines--appears to be based solely on the school’s subject matter. 

Despite how unjust this recent raid seems, I suspect that it may actually turn out to be one of the best things that could have happened to help with the campaign to legalize cannabis and raise public awareness about this important issue. Honestly, I don’t think that the U.S. federal government now even has a remote chance against the rising wave of educated and outraged, cannabis-friendly people, and I suspect that marijuana prohibition will soon crumble like the Berlin Wall.

I suspect that these Planet of the Apes-style raids will have exactly the opposite effect that the feds are hoping for, and that these viscous and brutal attacks only bring more public attention to the injustices that are occurring.

As Oakland medical marijuana activist Jeff Jones (who started the city’s first cooperative in 1995) said to The LA Times, “If the feds wanted to make this go away quietly, they just stoked the hornet’s nest.”

Executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann echoed Jones’ words by saying to The LA Times, “I suspect and hope that the principal impact of such heavy-handed police actions by federal authorities will be to increase support for the broader legalization of marijuana.”

I suspect that Nadelmann and Jones are correct. If so, this certainly wouldn’t be the first time that the Draconian measures of an oppressive government--using violent suppression in an attempt to try and accomplish its misguided ends--creates nothing but worldwide attention over the obvious injustices that are occurring.

Robert Forte April 06, 2012 at 06:53 PM
to my mind this is another example of how and why the effort to mainstream psychedelic drugs and cannabis is doomed to fail. richard lee is a complicated character in the medical cannabis scene. a legitimate patient and big time profiteer. he sought a way to make a fortune off the plant and like yertle the turtle ended up in the mud. psychedelic drugs and cannabis, i think do their best work in secret, away from the egotistical concerns of our money hungry society. this oaksterdam bust is going to get a lot of press to give the impression that this is what the medical cannabis scene is really about. but you don't need a university or an institution to learn to grow medicine. you just have to have a half a brain and learn to keep quiet if helping people who need it is really your intention...
lamedicalmarijuana April 06, 2012 at 09:31 PM
People in hushed circles are saying that Federal Agents raided Richard Lee because he failed to make a routine pay-off to Federal Officials. Why is no one reporting on the huge amount of corruption that goes on? EVERYONE knows local authorities i.e police etc are ALL to eager to get their hands into the Medical Marijuana Money Pie! Don't be a FOOL and think that this type of corruption doesn't occur at the Federal Level! Federal Officials routinely take bribes from individuals in the Medical Marijuana Industry, that is the reason why there are so many pot shops in cities like LA! and elsewhere! Use your eyes people don't listen to half of what you read it is BS!!!
Diana Slattery April 08, 2012 at 01:04 AM
These are the complexities, no doubt.
H. Johnson May 07, 2012 at 03:13 AM
I am sorry our government is so slow on seeing the bigger picture here. Someone always has to start a change and I applaud them for having the guts to use marijuana. In every event there is always those who abuse, but greater amounts of those who really need medical marijuana should be able to, in one form or another. The drug cartels would have no need to sell it here if were grow our own and sell it to profit our great nation. After all the complaints of our national debt, why can't the government officials see this is our way out. The common person sees it, they need to open their eyes to eliminate the violence the cartels create and keep the money in the United States. I have never in my 56 years on this earth heard of anyone over dosing on marijuana. But patents are made for unnatural dangerous chemicals, but first we are guinea pigs to see if any harmful side effects exist to document. Next the lawsuits that make money off the dead and sick. That is the money hungry society for you. Marijuana has been around for years and years and is all natural, but those who are against it are not looking to keep our America the great nation it can be again, helping eliminate the national debt since nothing else has worked, lets try this way common people can help with.
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