Oaksterdam University

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Coordinates: 37°48′27.42″N 122°16′8.29″W / 37.8076167°N 122.2689694°W / 37.8076167; -122.2689694

Oaksterdam University
FoundedOakland, California, U.S. (2007 (2007))[1]
HeadquartersOakland, California
Key people
Richard Lee
Number of employees

Oaksterdam University is recognized as America's first cannabis college.[2] Located in Oakland, CA, the educational facility and "political institution" was founded in November 2007 by medical marijuana activist Richard Lee to offer quality training for the cannabis industry, with a mission to "legitimize the business and work to change the law to make cannabis legal."[1][3] Its main campus is located in the Oaksterdam area of Downtown Oakland, California. The university once had campuses in Los Angeles, Sebastopol, and Michigan. Currently the only brick & mortar campus resides in Oakland. As of recently, the school has taken their program on the road, conducting 2 to 4 day seminars in order to meet the demand for education. Oaksterdam has conducted seminars in Atlantic City, Denver, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., and Orlando, FL, with many more cities on the agenda.[citation needed]


Activist Richard Lee was inspired to create Oaksterdam University after visiting the Cannabis College in Amsterdam. Lee recalled:

In November of 2006 I visited Amsterdam and saw the Cannabis College there. I've seen in California that there are not enough good people who want to work in the cannabis industry in a professional way, who want to pay taxes and obey regulations and help improve their community. I came back from Amsterdam and the idea just popped into the back of my head...[1]

The university offered its first classes to 22 students in November 2007.[1] As of November 2009, the university has thus far graduated nearly 25,000 students from over 30 countries.[3]


A masked DEA agent during the April 2, 2012 raid

On April 2, 2012, Oaksterdam University was raided by the IRS, accompanied by the DEA and US Marshals Service.[4] The raid additionally targeted Coffeeshop Blue Sky and the Oaksterdam museum, both affiliated with Oaksterdam University. A number of the university's assets were seized, including plants, records, computers and bank accounts.[5]

Due to the city of Oakland's support of the university, the Oakland Police Department was not informed of the raid. Subsequently, on the same day, there was a shooting in a nearby school. As a result, the Oakland Police Dept. wasn't prepared to handle the numerous protestors (which included city council members ) and respond to the shooting in time. Oaksterdam University continued to put on classes less than 48 hours later. Incorrect reports often cite that the event was conducted by the DEA. Although the university was only one of many businesses under the corporate umbrella subject to the investigation, it was the Oaksterdam University name that was mentioned in the news due to its on-air and international recognition. No charges have been filed. Richard Lee retired, dissolving his interest in his businesses, paving the way for a new generation of leadership.[citation needed]

After the raid, Oaksterdam University officials stated that they would immediately reopen.[6] Founder Richard Lee said following the raid that he'll be giving up ownership of the organization, citing mounting debt and concern for incurring federal charges.[5][7][8] School officials continued to teach classes. The university has since graduated 25,000 students and continues to add more programs.[7]


The university's curriculum reaches all aspects of the medical marijuana industry, from horticulture to legal issues, politics, history, civics, economics, extracts, topical applications, business management, dispensary management, delivery business, cooking with cannabis and much more.[9][10]

The school has two main programs. The classic curriculum is a more comprehensive track that teaches students about the industry. The horticulture track teaches about growing cannabis specifically. Each program can be taken in either 14-week semesters, offered in the summer, spring and fall or every other weekend in fast track, seminar format. Seminars are 2 to 4 days, conducted on weekends, which include lessons and lectures on politics, legal issues, horticulture, as well as business management. Oaksterdam University recently offered a CME and CNE course in Orlando, FL where physicians and nurses received continuing education credits. The activity was approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credits.[1][11]

Notable faculty[edit]

  • Dale Sky Jones - chancellor[12]
  • Ed Rosenthal - author of books on cannabis horticulture
  • Richard Lee - founder of Oaksterdam University, proponent of California's Proposition 19 (2010)
  • Chris Conrad - author of cannabis history and industrial hemp


Opposition to the university has been shown by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which claims the school "sends the wrong message in the country's fight against drugs and promotes criminal activity."[11] Opinion has since changed. More doctors including U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy said that marijuana can be helpful, Retired DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young stated "The evidence in this record [9-6-88 ruling] clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record."

The ongoing legal risk to the university has also recently shifted in light of new federal guidance released by the Cole Memorandum on August 29, 2013, which de-emphasized federal prosecutions of cannabis businesses in states which had legalized the drug for medical or other adult use.[citation needed]

In media[edit]

Oaksterdam University is the subject of the 2012 documentary California, 90420.[13][14]


  1. ^ a b c d e Whiting, Sam (April 6, 2008). "Richard Lee's Oaksterdam U will teach you all you need to know about the weed business". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  2. ^ Rebecca Spence (October 27, 2010), "Contact high: In Berkeley, three Orthodox Jews run a medical-marijuana collective selling a religiously inspired cannabis cream", Tablet
  3. ^ a b Klein, Karen (November 10, 2009). "The Medical Marijuana Business Matures". BusinessWeek. McGraw-Hill. pp. 1–2. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  4. ^ Kuruvila, Matthai (April 2, 2012). "Feds raid downtown Oakland pot school". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "L.A. Now". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ Boghani, Priyanka (3 April 2012). "Oaksterdam University, medical marijuana school, raided by feds". Global Post. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  7. ^ a b April 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm (2012-04-06). "Oaksterdam founder to leave cannabis business – The Mercury News". Mercurynews.com. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
  8. ^ "Setback for legal marijuana? Pot raid rattles top cannabis crusader". CSMonitor.com. 2012-04-06. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
  9. ^ Berton, Justin (April 21, 2008). "Marijuana 101: School teaches ins, outs of pot". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  10. ^ "School Offers Classes on Cooking with Pot". NPR. Retrieved 2011-04-20.
  11. ^ a b Ioffee, Karina (June 4, 2008). "Marijuana university offers 'higher' education". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  12. ^ Patrick Sauer (July 26, 2011), "Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam University: On A Marijuana Mission", Huffington Post
  13. ^ Andrew O'Hehir (April 18, 2012), "California, 90420": The great marijuana hypocrisy–As a new documentary makes clear, social attitudes on pot are half-baked and even dangerous, Salon
  14. ^ "Film Review: California 90420 – Everything you ever wanted to know about marijuana, but were too buzzed, lethargic or just plain hungry to ask", Film Journal International, April 18, 2012

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]