What many saw as the inevitable hit Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee on Monday, when federal agents came knocking at the home and businesses of the man who has become the marijuana movement's de-facto figurehead.
After Lee revived a moribund part of downtown Oakland with a school dedicated to the pot trade, and used proceeds from the business to try to legalize marijuana with Proposition 19 in 2010, U.S. Marshals and agents from the IRS and DEA raided all of the downtown Oakland businesses connected to “General” Lee: Oaksterdam University, medical marijuana dispensary Coffeeshop Blue Sky, and a plant nursery connected to the dispensary.
“We sort of expected this in 2010 — not 2012,” said Jeff Jones, proprietor of the nearby Patient ID Center and co-proponent of Prop. 19. Following Prop 19's historic defeat, federal prosecutors had forced Blue Sky to relocate once, and IRS agents had audited Lee, who spent over $1 million of his own money to put Prop. 19 on the ballot.
The school will attempt to hold final classes for the semester as scheduled on Wednesday, even though the final project — a crop of marijuana ready for harvest, intended for an MS patient — was seized by authorities. Whether Blue Sky will reopen — and what effect the raids will have on the movement — is still unclear.