When federal agents raided Oaksterdam University, Richard Lee’s downtown Oakland, Calif.-based trade school, earlier this month, it wasn’t simply a crackdown on a local pot business, it was one of the highest-profile moves in the Obama administration’s nationwide assault on medical marijuana.
DEA and IRS agents hauled away computers, files and pot plants, leaving behind little more than office furniture. They did not disclose the reason for the raid and have not charged Lee with any crime as of yet. In an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post, his first since the raid, Lee, 49, blasted the federal crackdown as a senseless act of intimidation. “This is one battle of a big war,” said Lee, “and there’s thousands of battles going on all over.”
“Before he was elected, [President Barack Obama] promised to support medical marijuana and not waste federal resources on this,” Lee said. “About a year and a half ago, the policy seemed to change. They’ve been attacking many states, threatening governors of states to prevent them from signing legislation to allow medical marijuana. They’ve been attacking on many fronts.”
Lee was a vocal advocate behind California’s Proposition 19, a 2010 ballot question that sought to legalize marijuana. He put more than a million dollars behind the effort, which was opposed by the Obama administration and ultimately went down to defeat.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in California and 15 other states, plus the District of Columbia, and during his campaign for president, Obama vowed to stop the raids on medical marijuana users that were prevalent under George W. Bush, saying raiding patients who use marijuana for medicinal purposes “makes no sense.”