“It’s time for others to take over,” Lee says
OAKLAND, CA — Longtime marijuana reform activist Richard Lee, founder of Oakland’s Oaksterdam University, has said he will give up ownership of the marijuana trade school and other businesses following Monday’s raid by federal agents. The raids on the school, and other Oakland-area businesses Lee owns, resulted in the seizure of many of Lee’s assets, including plants, bank accounts, records and computers.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. Over 20 years…. I kind of feel like I’ve done my time,” Lee told the Los Angeles Times Thursday. “It’s time for others to take over.”
Lee, 49, who is a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, was detained during Monday’s raids but later released without being arrested. Lee said he is worried that he could face federal drug charges, a risk he has lived with for many years. He will continue to be an outspoken marijuana reform advocate. Lee bankrolled Proposition 19 in 2010, which sought to regulate the adult use, possession, and sale of cannabis to adults.
“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.”
Lee’s Oaksterdam University, the first brick-and-mortar marijuana trade school in the nation, remains open, although its classes have been scaled back. Lee’s dispensary is also open. He plans to transfer the businesses to new operators but said he will shut down his marijuana nursery because his stock of mother plants, which he had nurtured for years, was confiscated.
Monday’s raids on Oaksterdam University continue to draw criticism from citizens, news media, and public officials.
Speaking to news media on Monday, Oakland City Councilmember At Large Rebecca Kaplan said that Lee’s “involvement in Oakland has been overwhelmingly positive. … He’s been an exemplary community member.” She added that the city of Oakland “was not involved” in the decision to target the Oaksterdam facility.
US Attorneys in California had previously stated that their offices would only become involved in instances where proprietors were in clear violation of state law or in cases where federal law enforcement were summoned at the behest of local officials.