Feds Seize Marijuana Icon Richard Lee's Money, Which He Owed The IRS Anyway

In these days of leaks, the federal government has bigger worries than drug war dissidents. But Uncle Sam hasn't forgotten about the marijuana movement.

This week, the target of the biggest federal drug raid in recent Bay Area memory was finally brought to heel: the $180,000 in cash, found at the home and businesses of Richard Lee — the Oaksterdam University founder and bankroller of 2010 legalization measure Prop. 19 – is now official U.S. government property, according to court records.

Lee, as much an icon as the California cannabis movement has ever had, has never been charged with a crime following the April 2, 2012 raid in downtown Oakland, though he has been put out of business and effectively sidelined as a legalization activist.

But in taking Lee's money, the Justice Department is putting other branches of the government out: the money, held in liquid currency because banks refused to do business with the state-legal marijuana trade, was Lee's tax payments, earmarked to the IRS and to the city of Oakland.

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