By Anna Westendorf
Om Shan Tea describes itself on its website as "An urban tea oasis where fine teas, organic foods, and cultural events are offered to inspire healing, conscious community, and holistic wellness." However, in light of recent legal issues, this oasis is currently in jeopardy.
Oshan Cook, founder and owner of the tea house, was found guilty on November 1 of distribution of psychedelics, which includes a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Cook's initial trial took place this July, but the case was thrown out due to the refusal of multiple jurors to convict Cook. Prosecution elected to press forward with a retrial this fall, resulting in Cook's conviction.
"Tea Not Prison," an indiegogo campaign to raise money to fund an appeal, features a video of Cook's family entreating the public for assistance. Cook's mother and brother do not protest Cook's guilt, but instead argue that his conviction and potential sentencing is unjust.
"Just the idea of Oshan going to prison is horrific," says his brother in the video, which can no longer be viewed, also describing Cook as "another victim of the cruel and corrupt drug war."
Cook, who can be seen on the tea shop's Facebook page reading books to elementary school students, is painted in the video as a community leader and asserts that his conviction affects the "greater Bay Area community which he upholds."
"I believe in living my life in service to others. I've spent much of my life volunteering for nonprofits and for social justice," says Cook in the video, also noting the number of nonprofit, arts, spiritual, and other community events he has previously hosted in his shop.
"Contribution to this campaign is not only a vote for Oshan's freedom, and his vision for a better society, but a vote against the failed drug war," says his brother.
The campaign ultimately fell just $2,608 short of its $25,000 goal.
Cook was initially arrested in April 2010 conjunction with three drug dealers in a Drug Enforcement Agency sting operation. According to official documents filed with the United States District Court, a DEA agent met with and arrested the other three individuals: James Edmonds, Yuri Lambert, and Victoria Vanlaanen. Immediately following their arrests, Edmonds was instructed to contact his supplier to arrange a meeting. Cook appeared on the scene as the alleged supplier and was searched and arrested. Documentation shows that multiple vials of liquid LSD and 1.3 pounds of ecstasy were found on his person.
The other three defendants all plead guilty to their charges and each has since been sentenced -- Edmonds and Lambert to five years and three months in prison, and Vanlaanen to one year and six months.
Meanwhile, Om Shan Tea is closed indefinitely ("due to financial hardship," according to the shop's website).
According to the fundraising website, the campaign received all $22,392 of funds contributed by November 12. Whether this will be enough to fund the appeal will be seen in the new year. Cook's sentencing date is set for January 17.