From Raid to Redemption: 10 Years Later

Mar 31, 2022 | Blog, News

On April 2, 2022, Oaksterdam University celebrates a very important milestone in the history of the fight for cannabis legalization and education — marking its 10-year anniversary of surviving an Obama Administration federal raid that threatened to shut down the school and quash the movement at its core. 

On April 2, 2012, the IRS, assisted by U.S. Marshals and agents from the ATF, and DEA, descended on OU’s thriving campus in downtown Oakland, Calif. They raided OU’s school, dispensary, museum, and OU Founder Richard Lee’s apartment. They seized everything — computers, curricula, records, the entire student garden, and every last cannabis plant growing in OU’s nursery. They forced Lee to retire under the threat of a Continuing Criminal Enterprise charge. Though they left nothing but empty desks and chairs behind, the raid didn’t destroy the mission of Oaksterdam.

Federal agents stand in front of Oaksterdam University's main building.

Feds from four agencies descended on the OU campus during the raid.

Under the leadership of Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam rose from the ashes. On the day of the raid, Jones, with her 1-year-old strapped across her chest in a baby carrier, watched the raid from the sidewalk perimeter as a large crowd formed around her, pouring into the street in support of the school. Oaksterdam had a huge following, from the community to city hall, because the school and Oaksterdam-related businesses had revitalized downtown Oakland, bringing in tens of thousands of students from around the world to shop, sleep, and eat locally. The entire community was appalled by what they saw. 

Onlookers became even more horrified as news of the worst school shooting in the city’s history broke out a couple miles away at Oikos University. Oakland’s police force couldn’t respond because they were stuck protecting the feds who staged the raid on Oaksterdam unannounced, with no warning offered to local officials to prepare for the unrequested, unnecessary federal intervention that consumed all their resources that morning leaving local cops understaffed and unable to respond fully to to the tragedy unfolding at the other OU. 

“There’s a direct ramification to lives lost that day and how fast Oakland PD could respond to the true tragedy that happened that morning. Instead, they were raiding a school for a plant that had never killed anyone,” Jones says in a video recounting the raid.

Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee

Oaksterdam Founder Richard Lee was forced to retire after the raid.

The raid that Monday morning left OU’s building in shambles, but couldn’t destroy the Oaksterdam spirit. Employees and faculty volunteered to work for free to get the school back up and running. Chancellor Jones took on the role of President and Chief Executive Officer – she opened up and held classes that Wednesday.

Ten years later, Oaksterdam is stronger than ever under the leadership of the Executive Chancellor. 

Today, Oaksterdam boasts 50,000 alumni from 100 countries around the world. Its curriculum provides the best training and education in the industry. It has strong relationships with countless businesses, organizations and municipalities to advance a safe, equitable industry around the world. 

Oaksterdam was founded by pioneers in the cannabis movement who started at the local level and wrote legislation that became the blueprint for states to legalize across the nation. OU’s leaders continue to advocate for descheduling and destigmatizing the plant.  

Fight Crime Not Cannabis

Dale Sky Jones outside the Oaksterdam Campus after the federal raid in April, 2012

Jones is known as one of the first female cannabis industry leaders in the world, and works tirelessly on her mission of cannabis policy reform, specifically descheduling cannabis. 

“We have gone from the raid to being respected by government entities, policymakers and the halls of academia,” Jones says. “In addition to celebrating my 10th anniversary at the helm, Oaksterdam is also celebrating our 15th anniversary as an official school. We have so many exciting announcements coming this year, and we’re only just getting started.” 

For more “About Us,” click here.

For a look at Oaksterdam’s achievements in the past year, click here.

For a video about the raid, click below.

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