Richard Lee was inspired to create Oaksterdam U by a cannabis college in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, which teaches the horticultural aspects of marijuana. Lee expanded on that idea by focusing on "the entire cannabis trade" in his curriculum.
According to Oaksterdam U's website, "Our faculty is comprised of the most recognized names in the California cannabis legalization movement. Since opening its doors in November of 2007, thousands of students have taken classes with the hope of entering the budding cannabis job field. The cannabis industry generates millions of dollars in tax revenue and has created thousands of new jobs in California, drawing fresh new faces to the 'new gold rush'."
Oaksterdam U serves a growing marijunana business in California that includes about 500 clubs that bring in an estimated $870 million to $2 billion in revenue annually, according to a state agency.
Oaksterdam University generated $1.5 million in revenue in 2008.
Dale Sky Jones took over the lead position at Oaksterdam University in April 2012 after a federal raid on the facility.
Lee has described Oaksterdam University as "a trade school that specializes in all things marijuana," including:
- How to grow it
- How to market it
- How to consume it.
Oaksterdam students are required to take prerequisite courses on the political and legal environment surrounding marijuana. According to Lee, this is "because we are ground in changing the laws and want students to be aware of the legal risks and to become politically involved."
Training includes "horticulture, cannabis cultivation, cannabis cooking, hash making, bud tending and courses related to incorporating, starting and managing a business."
An auspicious beginning
Richard Lee took out an ad in 2007 in an East Bay alternative newspaper, suggesting that people contact him if they wanted to learn more about the medical marijuana business. He says, "The phone rang off the hook immediately. Within three or four days we had 100 people on a list." Oaksterdam U opened that fall.
According to Timm Herdt, chief of the Ventura County Star, "...these are people with a track record of advancing the cause of eliminating marijuana laws."
2012 federal raid
On April 2, 2012, federal agents with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided Oaksterdam University.
According to a press report, "The doors...were blocked by U.S. marshals and yellow tape following the early morning raid...agents carted trash bags of unknown materials out of the school as protesters gathered to condemn the action. A museum connected to the school and a nearby medical marijuana dispensary operated by Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee also were raided."
The home of Richard Lee was also raided.
Stephen Gutwillig, the director of the California branch of the Drug Policy Alliance, said, "Oakland has one of the most highly regulated systems for distributing medical marijuana in the state. We think this is a campaign by the U.S. attorneys not just to limit but to kill access to medical marijuana in California."
Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser to Barack Obama's drug czar, said, "This is a warning signal to any city including Oakland that they should tread very carefully when sanctioning an illegal activity. The brazenness of Oakland and other cities like this has actually made them a target."
Dennis Peron fired
Oaksterdam employee Dennis Peron announced on September 15, 2009 that he had been fired from Oaksterdam U. In response, Peron has begun a weekly picket at the Coffeeshop Blue Sky medical marijuana dispensary, owned by Richard Lee. The picket takes place on Friday evenings.
Several marijuana journalists have said that Peron was fired because Oaksterdam U supports California Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2010), whereas Peron objects to the taxation of marijuana.
- Ventura County Star, "Marijuana supporters ready for likely vote in November," January 10, 2010
- Drug Policy Examiner, "War breaks out within the marijuana legalization movement (part 1)," September 26, 2009
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Marijuana 101," April 21, 2008
- CNN, "Drive to legalize marijuana rolls on in California," July 24, 2009
- Truthout, "One Small Soldier in a Big War," December 16, 2009
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Dale Sky Jones to become new head of Oaksterdam University," April 17, 2012
- Ventura County Star, "Herdt: Measure that could stir the political pot," October 7, 2009
- Seattle Times, "Federal agents raid Calif. marijuana university," April 2, 2012
- Santa Cruz Examiner, "Dennis Peron sacked by Oaksterdamn U for opposing marijuana tax," September 16, 2009
- Santa Cruz Drug Policy Examiner, "Proposition 215 author announces boycott of Blue Sky medical marijuana dispensary," October 15, 2009