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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Oaksterdam University Goes Volunteer-Only, Future Uncertain

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 7:30 AM

Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam's new chief - OAKSTERDAM UNIVERSITY
  • Oaksterdam University
  • Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam's new chief

The federal Justice Department does not yet have Richard Lee's head. But in the wake of a multi-agency raid on Oaksterdam University, they have his business.

The "cannabis college," Oakland's best known institution of higher learning -- sorry, Mills, but you don't teach people to grow weed -- is now volunteer-only, with teachers, staff, and administrators working for free after IRS and DEA agents seized records, computers, and plants from the downtown Oakland campus during an April 2 raid.

Lee stepped down, and former executive Dale Sky Jones, a familiar face in the movement, will take his place, according to Oakland North. But affairs are far from being in order, and the future of the university appears grim.

Lee was the target of IRS activities for several years; he was briefly detained by authorities at his apartment during the raid, but he has not yet been charged with any crimes. He has been the marijuana legalization movement's de facto leader since bankrolling 2010's Proposition 19, putting the measure on the ballot with $1.5 million -- cash that had been earned by Oaksterdam University.

The school, which was founded in 2007 and helped to transform a near-dead area of downtown Oakland into a vibrant, if not active, commercial corridor, is expected to announce this change at an 11 a.m. press conference today.

Jones -- who is married to Jeff Jones, director of the Oakland Patient ID Center and a co-sponsor with Lee of 2010's Prop. 19 -- confirmed her appointment to Oakland North on Tuesday afternoon.

At one time, Oaksterdam University had locations in Los Angeles and Michigan. Both have since closed down due to "financial problems."

The school laid off its 45 employees following the April 2 raid because there was "no more money," Lee told media.

School officials, including Jones, pledged classes will go on with energy donated by volunteer instructors, and cash donations to cover bills. The school is looking for a new location as the lease on the current 30,000-square foot building expires at the end of the month, Jones said.

But for now, much appears uncertain. Once-paid instructors like Ed Rosenthal, a famous marijuana horticulturalist, remain uninvolved as Oaksterdam determines its next move.

"If they want me to teach, I'll teach," Rosenthal said Tuesday, appearing at a meeting of Americans for Safe Access's San Francisco chapter, clad in an Oaksterdam University hooded sweatshirt and jacket. "But I'm not involved in any decisions."

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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