Richard Lee, the influential marijuana activist and founder of Oaksterdam University, will give up his marijuana-related businesses in the wake of federal raids that targeted his home, the university, and his dispensary last Monday.
According to Lee, who faces a federal indictment on tax charges, “I think with my legal issues, it’s the best thing … I’ve been on the front lines for 20 years. I think I’ve done my duty, and it’s time for other people to take over.”
Lee has been a major force behind the movement to regulate and tax marijuana, bankrolling the ill-fated Proposition 19 in 2010, which would have legalized marijuana for adults in California. In Oakland, Lee helped pass ballot measures establishing the country’s first cannabis-business tax and making marijuana-related offenses law enforcement’s lowest priority.
Now Lee will step aside. Employees at Oaksterdam and Coffeeshop Blue Sky were laid off on Thursday due to a lack of money to pay them. “Pretty much, I was put out of business on Monday,” Lee said.
Oaksterdam University will continue holding classes through the rest of the month but will likely cease operating at its current location shortly thereafter. According to Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam’s executive director, the school will shift focus to online classes.
Lee is hopeful that Coffeeshop Blue Sky will remain open under new management. Oakland officials will work with Lee to transfer the dispensary permit.
Despite his legal issues, Lee will continue his efforts to legalize cannabis. However, he will now focus on other states. Colorado and Washington already have legalization initiatives on the ballot for 2012 and Oregon, Montana, Michigan, and Missouri have similar measures in the works.
Lee is also encouraged by the support he has received since the raid. An online petition calling for an end to “the raids on the medical cannabis industry,” and which classified Oaksterdam’s raid as “a senseless act of intimidation,” has received nearly 20,000 signatures.
“I think we have an army now to fight back … If we look at the history, we have more people supporting us than ever before,” Lee said.