Posts Tagged ‘richard lee’
Probably everybody who is reading this blog has seen the Kony 2012 video that went viral, amassing 28 million hits in its first day. When we say “viral” we think of something spreading instantaneously over a wide swath of demographics. However, some things spread more like cancers. They dont necessarily infect a large swath of people but when they do they have profound effects. It is especially important for our government to consider this spread when it trys to engineer social behavior. A good example is when the government started a program forcing welfare fathers to work, inadvertantly promoting single parent families. See you babe! Government programs have unanticipated impacts all the time.
I have mentioned that when Dennis Peron’s dispensary, the first in the world, was shut down in San Francisco more dispensaries exponentially metastasized in its place. so what is going to happen with Richard Lee’s dispensary now that it has been shut down (although the school has vowed to remain open)?
There are a few early indications. Oakland has approved operating permits for four new dispensaries and more underground Measure Z Clubs are operating all over the city. Now rather than a center hub it is more of an independent network system. You can close down one source or several sources but they cant close the network, it is too large. The risk is relatively low, with so many dispensaries the chance of any single dispensary being harassed is relatively low.
If I were writing a press release for the Cannabis Medical Dispensary Association which cannot be reached because it does not exist it would go something like this:
The unfair and unwarranted destruction of the Blue Sky Dispensary by the federal government was despicable, however, it remains ineffectual not one medical marijuana patient is without medicine because of this raid. The government faces a losing choice whether or not it prosecutes Lee. By taking Lee out the government created a big hole in the forest, its fertile soil and its well seeded. So we would like to congratulate the Federal Government for helping out industry grow.
But, getting back to that metastasis, Lee has trained hundreds of people as employees or interns who will now be able to go out and use their entrepreneurial training to open up their own cannabusinesses.
So to all my readers, go forth and prosper. Happy 420!
On this Easter I sit here thinking about the parable of Jesus’ dying and then rising from the dead to save his people. It is a common story woven throughout the fabric of our religions and beliefs across the world. Regardless of your religion or thoughts on Easter, the story is a valuable one. Jesus was persecuted for his beliefs to the point they actually killed him, but the inherent good of the universe could not be stopped; and three days later Jesus arose from the dead. Why is this an important story? Because it is meant to teach us that no matter how much the evils of this world can seem to overtake us and bring down our spirits that our existence and purpose transcend the secular world, and that the spirit and powers of the universe trump those who would use their powers to try and overcome what is good and right in the world.
Now I am not saying Richard is comparable to Jesus in any way, of course. That would be silly. But the story of the crucifixion and the rising from the dead is an important story for our community to understand in this current cannabis climate; and what happened to Richard Lee this week parallels the injustices that Jesus faced in his day and age. The reason Jesus was arrested was that chief priests and pharisees saw him as a threat to their self-proclaimed authority. That is right. Jesus and I are both convicted felons, so that helps me to feel better. But can you see how Jesus, like Richard and thousands of other people being persecuted for cannabis, was convicted and tried because his thoughts and sermons threatened the core power structure of the time. Richard also has posed a threat to the current power structure by succeeding in changing the dialogue and showing the world that not only is cannabis safe, enjoyable and helpful, but it is also a positive benefit for our society.
Cannabis itself poses a huge threat to the power structure of this country and world because it opens people’s minds up and gives them the ability to think more clearly for themselves. Prohibition of cannabis is one of the biggest lies that our society has ever told, and we have ruined millions of lives as a result of these deceptions. Richard’s work has made it much harder for these oppressors to carry on with their lies and their profitable drug war. Richard’s Oaksterdam University has trained over 4,000 people to understand, love, and respect cannabis. Those 4,000 folks are taking their knowledge and passing that on to others, and thus a wildfire has been created. It has been so awesome to watch. I remember when Rich came up with the genius of Oaksterdam U, in a small room on 15th St. It was more of a publicity stunt that was meant to show the world that the cannabis industry was legit; but what was born was one of the greatest ideas that cannabis reform has ever known. Oaksterdam has brought cannabis WAY out of the closet and into the living rooms of middle America. Which is why when armed gunmen stormed the OU castle the other day over a hundred of this industry’s brightest and best came out to defend her honor. We did not have militarized forces, but we had our voice and our presence. At the end of the day, while the thugs made off with plants and evidence, we came away the victors- and we have Richard Lee to thank for that.
How did we win you might say? Read the paper. Watch the news. Google Oaksterdam right now. Almost EVERY story is slanted in the favor of the cannabis community and seems to question the validity of our Nation’s continued failed war on cannabis. Because Richard pioneered so many aspects of this industry, he is a difficult target for them to understand. He is more than a weedhead. He is more than a patient. He is more than an activist. He is more than a businessman. He is more than a leader. He is more than your run-of-the-mill weedlebrity. He is a fucking cannabis icon. Richard Lee is a real life cannabis hero and I am glad to know him.
What I love about Richard Lee is that regardless of the topic or the strength of the opposition, he ALWAYS tells the fucking truth. That is rare in this day and age. Most people can blow in the wind for one reason or another; but not Richard. He will not bullshit you and he will not sugar coat things. He understands the value of an honest dialogue and is not afraid to have the tough conversations. I have a hell of a lot of respect for the way Richard goes about his business. There is a cool and calming confidence that I have always admired from afar and have worked to emulate. Richard has always been a powerhouse in cannabis reform, and there are many times when we have not seen eye-to-eye on things, but I have always respected his opinion because I knew it was well-thought and researched. I knew that Richard had done his homework. Regardless of where we personally sit regarding a particular issue you can be guaranteed Richard knows his shit.
His vision and implementation has been astonishing to watch in the place we all now know as Oaksterdam. Richard Lee is the Mayor of Oaksterdam, whether he wants the job or not. No one has done more to revitalize an entire section of a major city than Rich, his crew, and the other many soldiers who put their asses on the line and made this part of Oakland more legendary than Amsterdam. His effort to legalize cannabis through Prop. 19 was a paradigm shift in the way our community views cannabis. People know that it is just a matter of time before we cross that threshold the victors and the drug war criminals are held responsible for their actions.
So maybe we should dub what happened this week GOOD MONDAY, and we will also have a divine resurrection on whatever the cannabis equivalent of three days is (stoner time). While our community is down and a little out right now, we are bigger than the evils of this government that clings to power in an effort to control a large portion of our society that enjoys a safe, effective and helpful plant. The first Monday of April every year I will now observe GOOD MONDAY, the day the evil bastards crossed the line so far that they changed the world and helped us to win the battle for cannabis freedom. We are in the final days of this prohibition and they know it. We know it. The whole fucking world knows it. The toothpaste is out of the tube and it will be nearly impossible to put back. You can thank Richard Lee for getting a hell of a lot of the toothpaste out of that tube.
The bastards tried to crucify cannabis users on GOOD MONDAY. We rose up to meet them and let the world know that they cannot kick in the door of one of our most cherished institutions without a fight, and without having to answer for their actions. They have lost the battle. I would say 95% of the stories of the Oaksterdam raid have called bullshit on the continued waste of resources by the Feds and have praised OU’s work.
The school shooting and murder of 7 innocent people in Oakland that day at a different college juxtaposed the injustice for the world to see. Why are we chasing weedheads around and not focusing on real issues, like illegal guns? The world has just about had it with the dumb bullshit and the wasteful policies that are cannabis prohibition. The raid of Richard Lee and his historic institution is a huge black eye of the Federal policy of interfering with regulated medical cannabis. It shows that our priorities in this country are all fucked up. While hundreds of heavily armed federal zealots performed a military style raid on a man and a school that have hurt no one and have helped so many, so many died at the hands of gun violence that day across town, and the world watched in disgust. Once again, Richard Lee was leading the charge and educating the world on why cannabis prohibition is not working.
So MANY THANKS to Richard Lee and I look forward to fighting in the trenches with him until we end this fucking prohibition once and for all.
Here is a message and call to action from Richard himself:
Dear Friend,On Monday, April 2, my school — Oaksterdam University in Oakland — was raided by the DEA, IRS, and US Marshals. Oaksterdam provides training to the medical cannabis industry, and is fully compliant with state and local law.President Obama promised at the beginning of his administration to respect state medical marijuana laws. He has broken this promise time and time again — and the consequences have been devastating.This was a senseless act of intimidation. But I’ve been an activist far too long to become intimidated — and with the majority of Americans and common sense on our side, I know this is a fight we can win.With our government trillions in debt, why is our government using taxpayer dollars to come after me, Oaksterdam, and the thousands of patients who need medical marijuana just to get through the day?Tell President Obama and the DEA: Enough is enough. Keep your campaign promise, and stop the raids on the medical cannabis industry!
Thanks for your support,
Courtesy of Oakland North
After a federal raid in early April on Oaksterdam University, an education center located in downtown Oakland that trains students to work in the marijuana industry, founder Richard Lee has decided to step down as head of the institution. His successor will be former executive chancellor Dale Sky Jones, which will officially be announced on Wednesday morning.
“It is safe to say that I will be taking over the lead position at Oaksterdam University to ensure that the institution will go on,” Jones told Oakland North in an interview.
Oaksterdam University, the first cannabis college in the United States, was founded in 2007. Ever since visiting the cannabis college in Amsterdam, Lee had wanted to open a trade school for the cannabis industry in the US. Medical marijuana has been legal in California since the 1996 passage of Proposition 215, although it remains illegal under federal law. Lee, who has been working to end cannabis prohibition for over 20 years now, put his idea into practice by creating a school with a curriculum that focuses on the entire cannabis trade, offering classes such as Legal Issues, Politics, Cooking, Concentrates, and Horticulture.
“I started the university to promote the cannabis industry and to create jobs in this industry that pay taxes,” said Lee. “The other reason was to teach people who want to get involved in the cannabis industry and politics but did not know anything about it.” In 2008, a satellite school was launched in Los Angles and classes were also held in Michigan in May, 2009. (Both locations are now closed due to financial shortfalls.)
Lee, who moved to Oakland in 1997, played a huge part in passing Oakland’s Measure Z, making private sales, cultivation, and possession of cannabis local law enforcement’s lowest priority. He was also a supporter of Proposition 19, a failed 2010 ballot initiative to control, tax, and regulate recreational marijuana use in California. Even though Proposition 19 did not pass, Lee considers the effort, which he helped finance, a success. “It was successful in moving the legalization debate forward,” he said. “One of our main goals was to get people to talk about this issue. And it just was on the agenda with the presidents down in South America. Columbia and Guatemala have come out for legalization of cannabis now.”
You can read Oakland North’s complete coverage of marijuana-related issues in Oakland here.
by Scott Morgan, Stopthedrugwar.
The recent multi-agency federal raid of Oaksterdam University, a respected medical marijuana trade school in Oakland, has many people struggling to understand the Obama Administration’s escalating campaign against medical cannabis. Most pernicious among these theories is an idea I’ve heard repeatedly from medical marijuana supporters in recent weeks: that Obama needs to take a tough stance as he gears up for the general election.
It’s an easy enough thing to say, but it’s wrong, and people who want to change our marijuana laws would be wise to stop talking this way. The truth is that the American people don’t want a war on medical marijuana at all, and we’re steering our leaders in the wrong direction — both morally and politically — when we suggest that voters support the reckless drug war posturing of the past.
Sure, there was a time when politicians fanned the flames of anti-drug hysteria to powerful political effect. Knowing this history is important, but equally critical is the recognition that history, by definition, lies behind us. The “crack epidemic” of the ’80s, the death of Len Bias, the “soft on crime”attack ads that ravaged democratic nominee Mike Dukakis’ 1988 presidential campaign; these were events of political significance, but they’re a terrible measure by which to assess the implications of an issue like medical marijuana in an election nearly a quarter century later.
In fact, the question of whether Obama can safely stand up for medical marijuana is incredibly easy to answer. He already did. The president was elected on a platform that included pulling the plug on federal interference with state medical marijuana laws. Everyone knew that was his position, many supported it vigorously and perhaps more significantly, no one criticized him for it.
To even suggest that Obama has to appear “tough on drugs” in order to deflect political attacks is preposterous. What political attacks? When have we ever heard him criticized for any such thing? There is literally no constituency in the American electorate that is pressuring Obama to wage war against medical marijuana. The president could, in all likelihood, speak passionately in favor of medical marijuana from now until November without losing a single vote (and picking up more than a few for his trouble). To explain this, one need only look to the polls showing that eight out of 10 Americans support medical marijuana.
If anyone in the Obama Administration actually believes they’re scoring political points by waging war on voter-approved medical marijuana laws, they’ve got another thing coming. In 2012, the smart political approach to marijuana policy is to look at today’s polling, not yesterday’s posturing.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Medical marijuana advocates on Tuesday vowed to reopen a San Francisco-area college devoted to cannabis cultivation and known as the “Princeton of Pot” a day after federal agents shut down the school in a raid.
Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, some on crutches and in wheelchairs and smoking hand-rolled joints. The demonstrators carried signs that said, “Cannabis is medicine; let states regulate” and chanting “Feds off my meds.”
Monday’s raid on Oaksterdam University, which offers courses on growing and dispensing of marijuana, turned the Oakland-based school into the latest flashpoint between federal law enforcement and medical cannabis advocates in states where pot has been decriminalized for medicinal purposes.
Federal authorities also searched the home of veteranmedical marijuana activist and Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee, as well as a nearby medical marijuana dispensary he runs.
Lee, confined to a wheelchair by a spinal injury, was a leading proponent behind a failed California ballot initiative in 2010 that would have legalized possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana in the state for recreational use.
“In a wheelchair, he’s a threat,” Wayne Justmann, an adviser for medical pot supply shops, said facetiously as he spoke to Reuters at the rally. “He’s a guy who’s helped so many people.”
Rather than targeting Lee, Justmann added, “Go after that guy who killed seven and injured three.” He was referring to the former student of a private, Christian college who killed seven people and wounded three others in a shooting rampage on Monday.
Lee himself said he worried that he might be prosecuted.
“They can indict me any day,” he said, recounting how he was awakened by federal agents armed with assault rifles appearing at his Oakland apartment with a search warrant. “They can arrest me any day.” Agents briefly detained but did not arrest Lee.
The school was closed after agents searched it, but it will reopen Wednesday, Lee’s lawyer, Laurence Jeffrey Lichter said.
Although marijuana remains classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law, 16 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some sort of legalized medical-cannabis statutes, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
In those states, including California, the U.S. government has sought in recent months to shut down storefront dispensaries and greenhouses deemed by federal investigators to be drug-trafficking fronts, as well as those that are located close to schools and parks.
The Obama administration has said it would not single out individual patients who possess or grow their own marijuana in states with medical pot statutes. But federal prosecutors have warned they will continue to go after operations that support for-profit, illegal drug dealing under the guise of medical pot.
Federal action has led to dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries being shut down in California, but so far no one has been charged with criminal activity in connection with the crackdown, Lichter said.
by John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES – Richard Lee, whose bid to legalize marijuana in California brought him international attention, plans to give up ownership of his Oakland-based marijuana businesses after a federal raid this week seized many of their assets, including plants, bank accounts, records and computers.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. Over 20 years. … I kind of feel like I’ve done my time,” Lee said Thursday. “It’s time for others to take over.”
Lee said he would remain an outspoken marijuana advocate. “I believe that cannabis prohibition is unjust and counterproductive,” he said. “What I’ve done is ethical, and I tried to use the resources that I had to do everything I could to change the laws.”
In some of his most extensive comments since the raid, Lee acknowledged that he was worried he could face major federal drug charges. It’s a risk he has lived with for many years, first as an underground pot grower and then as the leader of a serious legalization effort, which drew vigorous opposition from the federal government.
“I never wanted to be the quote unquote leader of the legalization movement,” he said in a telephone interview. “I saw myself as just one small soldier in a big war. But I look at it as a battlefield promotion.”
Lee’s Oaksterdam University, the first marijuana trade school in the nation, remains open, although its classes have been scaled back. Lee’s dispensary is also open. He plans to transfer the businesses to new operators. But he will shut down his marijuana nursery because his stock of mother plants, which he had nurtured for years, was confiscated.
The former rock-band roadie is one of the highest-profile marijuana activists in the nation, if not the world. His school drew wide-eyed media coverage after it opened in 2007, helping him promote his vision that marijuana could be a legitimate business.
A paraplegic who uses a wheelchair, Lee, 49, became the telegenic spokesman for ending pot prohibition after he spent more than $1.5 million trying to pass Proposition 19 to legalize the drug in 2010.
He is a well-known and highly regarded figure in Oakland, where city officials praise his businesses for resuscitating a shabby downtown area embarrassingly close to City Hall.
Lee was detained during Monday’s raid by the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration, but not arrested. His allies had feared he would be arrested in 2010, when he spoke frequently, candidly and enthusiastically about his pot ventures.
On Thursday, Lee suggested that, if he is charged, it could become another watershed event in the march toward legalization by turning more Americans against the drug war. ”In some ways, I see the possible prosecution of myself as another Proposition 19,” he said.
Federal penalties for growing marijuana increase with the number of plants. More than 60,000 can bring the death penalty, Lee noted. He said he did not know how many plants were seized. “We didn’t have 60,000 plants on site, but they can add up …,” he said.
Lee said his operations had been audited by the IRS, but he did not know what triggered the raid and seizures. “The company is bankrupt,” he said, suggesting that employees, who could lose jobs, and Oakland, which could lose revenues from taxes on marijuana, were also victims.
Until he knows whether he has to mount a legal defense, Lee said, he plans to work on a book and a television series about his career. “I think the nationwide coverage of the raid shows that there is a story here that a lot of people would like to see and like to hear about,” he said.
Lee also said he would consider helping legalization efforts in other states: “This may free me up to be able to go campaign.”
He noted that Oaksterdam University has trained about 15,000 marijuana experts and activists who are now at work around the country, suggesting that he has marshaled an army for the legalization fight. “We are getting very close to a tipping point on this issue,” he said.
On the April 5 episode of NORML SHOW LIVE we spoke live with Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University. Click this link to hear the interview.
Richard told me he’s doing as well as can be expected when federal agents violate your home and business. He tells us the nature of the federal warrants that were served Monday in early morning raids.
Richard was “treated well” by the authorities – “they didn’t even break anything,” he told us – and he was not arrested, though that possibility still exists.
Most remarkably, Richard expressed an optimistic view that these actions will galvanize the public opinion even more in our favor for ending this tragic medical marijuana crackdown.
Richard reminded us that juries cannot be punished for their verdicts and urged everyone to work hard to get on jury duty so we can begin to dismantle the prosecution of prohibition.
In closing, he lamented the IRS tax charges being used against him and others in the cannabis industry. ”They can’t have it both ways,” he complained about the government’s claim he owes taxes on something that is illegal. ”No taxation without legalization!”
Join with Richard Lee and NORML in demanding an end to federal raids. Make President Obama keep his campaign pledge to not devote federal resources to prosecuting medical marijuana providers that are in compliance with state law.
by Carly Schwarz, Huffington Post
SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds of medical marijuana activists gathered on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to support California’s multi-million dollar cannabis industry, under siege since the federal government launched an aggressive crackdown last fall.
A handful of local legislators and cannabis patients addressed the heated crowd before marching down the street to the federal courthouse to address U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, who has championed anti-marijuana actions in the Bay Area.
“We’re patients, not criminals!” the protesters chanted, along with cries of “DEA, go away!” and “Fire Haag!”
“Today, we are all green,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu in a fiery speech. Chiu and fellow city supervisors who attended the event pledged to expedite the permitting process for local pot shops that have been forced to close and wish to reopen elsewhere.
California’s medical marijuana industry has been struggling since federal prosecutors began targeting dispensaries in October. More than 100 California busineses have been forced to shut down, and hundreds more have received threatening letters claiming their landlords could be jailed if they continue to operate.
Five cannabis clubs in San Francisco have shuttered, leaving employees without work and patients without access to their medicine. Haag sent the same threatening letters to roughly a dozen more (some dispensaries won’t go on the record as to whether they had received a warning). On Monday, federal authorities raidedOakland’s world-famous Oaksterdam University and the home of its founder, Richard Lee, one of the state’s most outspoken medical marijuana activists.
The U.S. attorneys’ actions mark a sharp departure from the Obama administration’s 2009 Ogden Memo, which declared that prosecutions in states that have legalized the plant for medicinal purposes would not be a priority. Advocates argue the federal government should direct its energy elsewhere.
“It’s a total waste of federal resources,” Stephanie Tucker, spokesperson for theSan Francisco Medical Cannabis Task Force, told The Huffington Post. “They’re attacking a peaceful, regulated community and it’s wasting money. Shame on them.”
Though the drug remains illegal under federal law, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes when voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996. Studies have shown that California’s medical marijuana industry generatesupwards of $100 million in annual tax revenue.
Haag has remained relatively mum on the issue, repeatedly citing dispensaries’ proximities to schools and parks as justification for the crackdown. “I hope that those who believe marijuana stores should be left to operate without restriction can step back for a moment and understand that not everyone shares their point of view,” she told HuffPost in a statement. “People are deeply troubled by the tremendous growth of the marijuana industry and its influence on their communities.”
But advocates said they believe Haag’s argument thin. Cathy Smith, co-founder and manager of HopeNet, a dispensary in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, told HuffPost that the neighborhood has become dramatically safer in the nine years since her business opened its doors. Crime has dropped significantly, largely due to the increased presence of lighting and surveillance cameras her store installed in order to adhere to the city’s strict regulations surrounding cannabis clubs.
“Nine years ago I wouldn’t be open past 5 p.m. because I was worried about our female customers,” Smith said. “Now we’re open until 9. The neighborhood has improved that much.”
So much, in fact, that a few years ago, a private school opened around the corner. And now HopeNet’s landlords have received their own threatening letter from Haag because of the shop’s proximity to that school.
“Haag says she can’t tell the difference between a good club and a bad club,” Smith said. “I’m here to show her the difference. We are the club that is different; there’s no question about it.”
In addition to selling medical marijuana and related supplies, HopeNet offers a series of weekly community events, including a veterans’ support group, a ladies’ afternoon tea and various life skills workshops. “We like to think of ourselves as a family,” Smith said. “We don’t just sell pot here — we help people.”
And the family is willing to fight. Supporters of Smith’s business have sent hundreds of handwritten letters to Haag’s office demanding she back off, and others have tried (unsuccessfully) to schedule in-person meetings.
Similar to the HopeNet’s community’s outpouring of support, he actions of Haag and her counterparts have served to strengthen the ties of pot proponents across the Bay Area. “It’s only emboldening us and bringing us together,” said Tom Angell, spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a coalition of active and retired police officers, prosecutors and judges who actively speak out against the drug war. “People who used to compete in the marketplace are now standing shoulder to shoulder.”
Advocates have drawn the endorsements of a fair share of legislators, as well. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-S.F.) recently introduced a measurethat would establish uniform regulations for pot shops throughout the state based on San Francisco’s strict and successful standards for operating dispensaries. On Monday, a coalition of lawmakers from five states penned an open letter to the Obama administration demanding an end to the crackdown.
Meanwhile, as some San Francisco cannabis clubs close down, others plan to open. Last month, the planning commission approved three new dispensaries for the city’s Excelsior district, and another opened in the Mission last week.
Those targeted by federal authorities vow to defend their businesses and the industry until the end. “They can indict me any day. They can arrest me at any time,” Lee said during Tuesday’s rally. “One way or another, Oaksterdam will fight on.”
So will San Francisco.
Cannabis Warrior Mickey Martin: So last week Oakland named the top ten finalists for their medical cannabis RFPA permitting process and the names at the top of the list read like they were scored according to campaign contributions, no doubt. The odd part is there are some very well connected people with a hell of a lot to lose near the top of the list, and it begs to wonder if any are having second thoughts after the onslaught of news regarding asset forfeiture and criminal charges relating to the recent crackdown of the medical cannabis industry. I have to wonder why some of these rich folks and ex-city officials would risk their fortunes and careers to sell weed in Oakland? Add to that the attention of the Weed Wars, and it would seem that there is a magnifying glass on Oakland cannabis these days, and all of these folks are bound to end up on front street as contenders to be the next Stevie-D in Oakland’s wild world of medical cannabis.
It is one thing to submit an application, and use your finances and connections to push your application through the City. It is an entirely different thing to open the doors and actually break Federal law and risk decades in prison to run a retail store that happens to sell cannabis. It is a sticky-wicket for sure and the jury is still out in Oakland, but we are just weeks away from the City choosing the final four. After that these folks will either have to shit or get off the pot. It is time to break Federal law and risk everything in a game we in the industry like to call “Who wants to not be a millionaire but risk everything for a non-profit salary?” I know my place in the world. I am an outlaw. I will work in the medical cannabis industry through thick and thin and will stand in the face of agression to fight for what I believe in. But even I, after armed gunmen stormed my castle and decimated my life with fear and threats of decades in prison, am weary about being out front on a major project in this day and age with all that is happening. So it begs to wonder if all of the folks who committed to opening a state of the art dispensary in Oakland, investing heavily in an unknown market, and risking their freedom and fortune, actually have the juice to pull it off. We shall see….
So here is a breakdown of the top ten applicants so far, their locations, and their board members as reported on the City of Oakland website:
1.) Oakland Community Collective- (2101 Broadway): The Board consists of some well-known faces in medical cannabis, most notably Salwa Ibrahim of Oaksterdam (General manager) who has helped Richard Lee to be a success in his ventures for many years. Also involved is Derek Peterson (CFO), the owner of GrowOp Technologies and former partner of Dhar Mann at WeGrow. Also listed on the Board is Latanya Linzie (Member Manager), and administrator at Oaksterdam University. It would seem that this group is well aware of the risks going in, but Derek Peterson recently had a child and there has to be some concern there. As with any of us who have kids in this industry, as people like Bryan Epis sit in prison today serving out decade long prison terms watching their kids grow up in a prison visiting room, it is a big commitment to make and a big risk to take by any measure. I can vouch firsthand that this is always a factor in weighing one’s decision to sell cannabis openly in this legal and political climate.
Their facility is an old bank building on Broadway directly across from the Paramount. It is a nice building, but is listed as outside of the preferred “allowable area” on the City’s map.
2.) G8 Medical Alliance, Inc.- (7o Hegenberger Loop): The most telling thing about this Board of Directors is not who IS on it, but who is not. The location is owned by the family of Dhar Mann called Mann Edge Properties. It is the same building where WeGrow once was and Dhar Mann has stated his desire to have an Oakland permit in the press repeatedly; but he is not listed as a Board Member on this project for some reason. Why? Is this a shadow Board of Directors? Are we supposed to believe that somehow this organization has no ties to self-proclaimed “potrepeneur” Dhar Mann, while renting his space and being headed by folks who have been directly involved with him for years? I am not falling for it, and believe the Oakland City Council should investigate this relationship further, as it is obvious they are being bamboozled.
The Board is supposedly headed by Toni Mims-Cochran, a local attorney who seems to work with eviction law a lot and has represented Dhar Mann in the past. Normally lawyers steer clear of sitting on Boards of dispensaries because any legal action can result in them losing their State Bar credentials. Also on the Board is former City Council member and attorney Leo Bazille, who was also University Chancelor for Dhar Mann’s now defunct wannabe Oaksterdam called Unicann. Also on the Board in Ekundayo Sowumni, listed as the President of Ackland Realty in Oakland, as well as Joel Elliott who I believe is with Priority Focus Security Group, LLC out of Oakland. Another Board member, which shows clearly that this is indeed a Dhar mann project, is Ariana Patino who is listed as a real estate agent for Mann Edge properties and is Dhar’s assistant. Another member listed is Aaron Goodwin, which is famed sports agent and local Oaklander Aaron Goodwin who was once shot by Oakland police, and is apparently best friends with Oakland City Councilperson Desley Brooks, who also is a “big fan” of Dhar Mann you might say. If you look up www.re-electbrooks.com the registrant is… who else? Dhar Mann. Was this disclosed as a campaign contribution?
The biq question is, “Why are all of these people willing to stand out front and catch the arrows for Dhar Mann?” It is a huge risk to take and it is obvious that the entire Board is just a front for the Dhar Mann WeGrow empire.
The building, as noted, is the old WeGrow location that did not make it. It is located just a stone’s throw from Lighthouse Community Charter school, which begs to wonder how they too expect to overcome the wrath of Melinda Haag and her strict no schools or playgrounds policy. Does the family owned MannEdge Properties know that they could possibly lose this building, like has recently happened in Fairfax and other parts of the state? Who knows? What is obvious is that something is rotten in Oakland if they cannot see through the shadow Board of this organization and their obvious links to Mann who is mysteriously missing from the application.
3.) Tidewater Patients Group- (4709 Tidewater Ave.): This is another one of those situations that begs to wonder what is actually going on. It is well-known that Terra Linda Development President, Carlos Plazola, is directly involved with this project, yet he is not listed as a Board member. Instead, a real estate agent named Bill Koziol is listed as the President of Tidewater Patients Group. Alexis Parle is listed as the managing member, who is unknown. Also listed as Board members are David Koziol (unconfirmed: google shows this name at Marin Monument a cemetery stone maker from San Rafael), Jay Dodson found as the owner of Mestizo Construction (who coincidentally is co-listed on several projects with Terra Linda Development), and Michael Stewart who conveniently sits on the Board of the Oakland Builder’s Alliance with Carlos Plazola). So what it seems we have here is another group seemingly unfamiliar with the medical cannabis industry looking to risk all of those bold credentials at a shot of fame and fortune in the outlaw world of medical marijuana. God Bless them…..If I had all of that to risk, chances are I would stick with what I know and not gamble on this unknown industry, but heck, what do I know anyway?
The facility is down on the industrial Tidewater Avenue, off of High Street and the 880. It is not a very desirable area for patients to travel to for their medicine and the building is listed as a warehouse facility. Good thing all those developers are on board to make it happen. It is just mysterious why there is a most definite connection to Mr. Plazola here, but no mention of him in the application.
4.) AMCD, Inc.- (578 W. Grand Avenue): This is a group that once had a permit in Oakland and blew it for illegally dispensing in Oakland and failing to meet building codes. Their permit was then awarded to Steve D’Angelo and Harborside and the rest is history. When they were open, vendors were outraged as they seemingly owed every grower in the movement and refused to pay them. People literally used to throw eggs at their place repeatedly. Also, when turning in his application, Executive Director Carl Anderson did not have his check with just minutes before the 4 pm deadline, so it is questionable how he was able to get to a bank and get a cashiers check issued and turned into the city on time. An exception had to have been made and I know more than one organization that will be appealing based on this should they be granted a permit.
As stated, the Executive Director is listed as Carl Anderson and his son Forrest is also listed on the Board. These folks already have a bad reputation in the industry, but have spent the years since being shut down greasing the wheels at City Hall and enlisting anyone and everyone on their Board to legitimize their efforts. Chairman of their Board is Minnie Watson, also on the original Board of the organization when it was shut down by the city. Their Vice President is Geri Murphy, a licensed psychologist who is risking her career to dispense medical cannabis. Also listed is George Iaconis, a person who has operated his own security company for 30 years and is now venturing into the industry (although he is not listed on their website). David King is listed as an information officer and from his experience with Cisco systems is managing the IT aspects of the operation. Rounding it out is Kisha Jackson, the California Director of the NAACP, who is entering the outlaw world of medical cannabis as the “Executive Spokesperson.” Who IS listed on their website as a Board Member and who I believe took their test, but is not mentioned on the application as such, is Hank Levy CPA, who has several clients in the industry.
Their location is the same location they previously operated out of at 578 West Grand. It is not in the preferred allowable zone of the city, likely because of its proximity to New Day Pre-School and Learning Center just a few blocks away. Word is that they were so sure of their getting this permit that they have already built out the entire facility. They are so sure that they will get it that they do not even have to bother to turn in their check on time. Must be nice.
5.) Agramed- (1820 Embacadero): Agramed’s sole listed Board member is Jeffrey Wilcox, who gained recognition in the industry for putting forward the “mega-grow” program that was interfered with by the Federal government in writing the first of many letters to municipalities warning of their desire to be involved in cannabis business. More info on that can be found in my article entitled “Why is Jeff Wilcox such a prick?” What is crazy is that Jeff Wilcox is continuing to pursue this permit as a sole incorporator, and is risking quite a vast fortune that he made when selling his construction company. He has three teenage children, who he claims are his reason for getting into this business, but it is unclear if they are aware of the great risk their dad is taking with the family fortune and property. It is people like Jeff Wilcox, with so much to lose, that would make a seemingly huge target for Federtal enforcement. If he is running a dispensary out of a property he owns then it is a slam dunk for asset forfeiture if they press criminal charges ever. Besides him being such a gigantic asshole, it begs to wonder why he is attempting to enter an industry with so many questions in order to make a measly non-profit salary.
His location is a plot of land near Harborside at 1820 Embarcadero, which should be interesting should he get the permit. It is literally right next door. It is also near Beacon Day School and is not in the preferred allowable zone as listed on the City’s mapping. It begs to wonder why a person with zero experience in dispensing cannabis would want to take such bold risks with his freedom and property, but I suppose some people get a Camaro for their mid-life crisis and others get a dispensary.
6.) East Bay Conscious Collective- (1155 3rd St.): This is a group spearheaded by members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the drag queen nuns charity group. How fun would it be to have these folks running a dispensary in Oakland? Yay! Edward Huser, aka Sister Barbi Mitzvah, is listed on the application as the CFO. He is joined by Eric Wesson (manager) and Nick Davis (manager). Board Members John Anderson and Jon David Petras (owner of Cafe Flore in San Francisco) are also listed on the city’s website.
Their facility is on 3rd and Adeline near the Port of Oakland in the same building as Nellie’s Soul Food. The space is a two story office building and is in the allowable zone.
7.) South Bay Apothecary Collective- (9821 Kitty Lane): Why ever would a group applying in Oakland use the name of their San Jose location called “South Bay Apothecary Collective” in the East Bay? But that is their call. Their facility in San Jose is a quiet one amongst 100+ and it would seem they are looking for greener pastures in Oakland. Their Director is listed as Johnny Nguyen and Steve Vinhm is listed as their manager. Kiet Tran is listed as in charge of “collective development.” The group’s person of service on the Secretary of State website is Vanessa Quan. This group is not very active in the cannabis scene overall, and even though they have been in business since November of 2009 (right after the Ogden memo), they have made little impact in the industry. Most asked had never heard of them.
Their facility is located off of 98th Ave on the Kitty Lane and seems to be in an allowable zone. They do not currently test their medicine in San Jose, so it will be interesting to see what they wrote in their application for testing in Oakland. If they list that they will be testing medicine it begs to wonder why they do not do that now? The facility is a 6000 sq. ft. warehouse building, that will need to be built out, so if nothing else they are well-financed. I looked at this building for a grow site for a client and the landlord was not interested in a cannabis business. I wonder if they purchased the site?
8.) Magnolia Wellness Inc.- (3421 Telegraph Ave.): This is a group who has made its name providing medicine to patients in the Sacramento area since 2009. They won best booth at last year’s HT medical cup in San Francisco and were listed as the “Best Compassion” program by Sacramento News and Review’s Best of Sacramento 2011. Executive Director David Spradlin is originally from the East Bay. He is joined by local Oakland business owner Harold Rogers, and Community organizer Eli Austin. Steep Hill CEO AnnaRae Grabstein is also an advisor on the Board.
Their facility is located at 34th and Telegraph in a mixed use commercial building. It is located near Grove Shafter park, as a sensitive use. Grove Shafter is a rundown park under the freeway interchange and is home to a lof of criminal activity. The group hopes to turn a large portion of it in to a community garden that provides food to the community according to their director. Magnolia Wellness is one of the most popular collectives in the Sacramento area and it will beg to see if they can bring that reputation for quality and compassion to Oakland.
9.) Abatin Wellness Center of Oakland- (8440 Enterprise Way): This is the project of my friend and yours, TV Celebrity Montel Williams. He is the only one listed on the application, which is odd because I do not believe he is a resident of California. He is also saying he is a resident of DC in order to get a dispensary there. What is also odd is that he is listed as a “consultant” to the Abatin Group in Sacramento, as they renamed another collective; and on this Abatin Wellness he is listed as the President. Huh? So he is not the President in Sac but is in Oakland? And it begs to wonder why his partner in Sacramento, well-known activist Aundre Speciale, is not listed on the Oakland application either? Also it is reported that Americans for Safe Access Director Don Duncan took the test for him, which is supposed to be done by a “member applicant” according to the City’s RFPA request and ordinance, yet Montel is the only one listed as an applicant.
The facility is down off of Hegenberger and was a former landscaping company. It is in the allowable zone, which begs to wonder why their application is ranked so low?
10.) Green Light District- (721 98th Ave.): Listed as “co-owners,” Brian Basillo and Jaysen Jacinto are the main applicants. The person of service for their corporation is Timothy Flaherty, a lawyer from Pleasant Hill and planning commissioner there. According to the google Jacincto seems to work or have worked with Telekenex and is in the telecommunications game. There are several listings for Brian Basillo, but there is a local one who used to work for AT&T.
Their facility seems to be a house on 98th Avenue, but it is hard to tell on Google maps. This address was reportedly a house for sale for $185,000 at one time according to a real estate website.
So there we have it folks…..the TOP 10 Candidates for opening a dispensary in Oakland. Read them and weep. It is amazing to me that after all that has happened that there are even 10 people left in the race. There is a lot of heat out there, and the unsurity of this industry is at an all time high. It is clear that some of these big wheels are willing to risk it all, and I can appreciate that. As I go over the list and understand how these applicants have given (or not given) to many City officials causes and campaigns, it is hard for me not to think things are rigged. What is clear is that if some of these applicants (or shadow applicant organizations) do indeed get the permit, there could be a lot of investigation and questioning of the entire application process. Only time will tell. Maybe all of them will throw up their hands and walk away, as the Feds continue to escalate the war on providers and their property. I wonder if some of these folks understand the risks involved and know clearly what the potential hazards of having a leading role in a cannabis dispensing organization really are. As a person who had his life turned upside down and was threatened with decades in prison just for making medicated foods, I know firsthand the real dangers of being in the cannabis industry. It is just hopeful that the leadership for all of these organizations has taken the time to explain the situation and has been honest with everyone involved. Anything less would just be sad.
So in about a month there will be public hearings, which should be exciting for sure. From here on out it is a pants-off dance-off and it is anyone’s guess who will actually open a dispensary in Oakland next year. The only thing for certain is that whoever gets the permits better bring their A-game because the competition level will surely be at an all time high….