Oaksterdam© Lauren Greenfield
An unlikely group of people in Oakland, California chants "I do not consent to this search. I am going to remain silent. I want to see a lawyer." While they're just three blocks from the local DEA office, and they've most likely got recreational drugs at hand, they're not being arrested for possession; they're getting a lesson from a criminal defense lawyer at Oaksterdam University, the first certified educational institution with an exclusively marijuana-oriented curricula. Next, a business lawyer explains how to incorporate a cannabis farm as a non-profit, followed by Horticulture 101.
Medical marijuana - attainable for anxiety or insomnia - has been legal for over a decade in California. In 2007, Richard Lee, a "free-market Republican capitalist" founded Oaksterdam University to "provide students with the highest quality training for the cannabis industry". Lee also owns an Oaksterdam gift shop (selling paraphernalia, University themed apparel, and literature) and the Coffeeshop Blue Sky, where almost one quarter of Oakland's medical marijuana trade is conducted over a small counter in the back.
Restrictions on the marijuana market loosened four years ago, when a ballot passed that made marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. Called "Measure Z", it compelled Oakland to "establish a system to license, tax, and regulate cannabis". In addition to the Patient ID Centers (offering medical marijuana cards for patients to procure and grow pot), marijuana production facilities and "Z clubs" emerged: invitation-only venues where recreational marijuana is openly bought, smoked, and sold (they're sanctioned by the city but illegal under federal and state law). As Lee says "In Oakland, legalization is the one thing everyone can get behind."
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