20 Aug 2014
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Federal Agents Raid California’s Center for ‘Higher Learning’

Agents from the DEA and the IRS raided Oaksterdam University, the world’s first medical cannabis educational center.

Federal Agents Raid California’s Center for ‘Higher Learning’

On April 2 federal agents from the DEA, the IRS, and U.S. Marshals raided Oaksterdam University, the first cannabis therapeutics training center in the world. The medical cannabis educational center was founded by activist Richard Lee--who helped to put the Proposition 19 measure on the California ballot. (Proposition 19 was an attempt to legalize recreational cannabis in the Golden state that almost succeeded in the last election, with 46.5% voting in favor of the measure.) Lee’s home was also raided.

Even more chilling was that, as the raid on Oaksterdam University was occurring, only a few miles away a gunman opened fire at the private Oikos University in Oakland, killing seven innocent people and wounding three others. With these two incidents occurring simultaneously, just a few miles apart, one just has to ask: Could these deadly shootings have been prevented if the federal government had been more focused on preventing violent crime than on suppressing valuable knowledge about a medicinal plant?

The raid infuriated many of the local Oakland residents who protested with such fury that riot police had to be called in--although there was no violence--and lawmakers from five states that allow medical marijuana wrote a public letter to the federal government telling them to back off and leave medical marijuana patients, collectives, and educational centers alone. 

I wish that the lawmakers would have said “leave them the hell alone,” just to ensure that there would be no future misunderstandings about what was actually being communicated in their message, but I understand the necessary constraints that our elected officials needed to exercise.

However, numerous newspaper editorials spoke out against this draconian government action taken on Oaksterdam University--and the slew of federal raids over the past few months on medical cannabis dispensaries in California--with less restraint, as these misguided actions represent a stark break from President Obama’s stated campaign promise in 2008 to not prosecute medical marijuana users who comply with state law. 

Many people have been more than disappointed by Obama’s complete turnaround on this important medical issue. Obama’s promise to leave medical cannabis patients alone was one of the primary reasons that I voted for him in the last presidential election, and although I’m not terribly surprised by his broken promises, I’m certainly disappointed.

Nonetheless, I’m still more than hopeful about the future of medical cannabis. 

A lot of people are rightfully outraged about the federal government’s recent raids on California’s compassionate health centers that offer new hope, and bring enormous relief, to the most ill members of our population. I’m outraged too. However, I also see this most recent raid as a good sign, and I could not be more optimistic about the future of cannabis-based medicine, as--in this day and age--the truth is pretty difficult to hide for very long.

It appears that the federal government is getting desperate in its misguided attempt to suppress accurate and truthful information about cannabis, as this recent raid on an educational institution--that taught cannabis growers and dispensary owners how to legally operate within California state guidelines--appears to be based solely on the school’s subject matter. 

Despite how unjust this recent raid seems, I suspect that it may actually turn out to be one of the best things that could have happened to help with the campaign to legalize cannabis and raise public awareness about this important issue. Honestly, I don’t think that the U.S. federal government now even has a remote chance against the rising wave of educated and outraged, cannabis-friendly people, and I suspect that marijuana prohibition will soon crumble like the Berlin Wall.

I suspect that these Planet of the Apes-style raids will have exactly the opposite effect that the feds are hoping for, and that these viscous and brutal attacks only bring more public attention to the injustices that are occurring.

As Oakland medical marijuana activist Jeff Jones (who started the city’s first cooperative in 1995) said to The LA Times, “If the feds wanted to make this go away quietly, they just stoked the hornet’s nest.”

Executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann echoed Jones’ words by saying to The LA Times, “I suspect and hope that the principal impact of such heavy-handed police actions by federal authorities will be to increase support for the broader legalization of marijuana.”

I suspect that Nadelmann and Jones are correct. If so, this certainly wouldn’t be the first time that the Draconian measures of an oppressive government--using violent suppression in an attempt to try and accomplish its misguided ends--creates nothing but worldwide attention over the obvious injustices that are occurring.

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