Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Oakland Is Focus of Federal Government
By ZUSHA ELINSON
Published: October 29, 2011
Richard Lee, the leader of the marijuana legalization movement in California, does not appear to be intimidated by the federal government’s crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries.
The Bay Citizen
A nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization providing local coverage of the San Francisco Bay Area for The New York Times. To join the conversation about this article, go to baycitizen.org.
FiveThirtyEight: Gallup Poll is First to Find Plurality Support for Marijuana Legalization (October 18, 2011)
U.S. Attorneys in California Set Crackdown on Marijuana (October 8, 2011)
Times Topic: Marijuana and Medical Marijuana
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Mr. Lee closed his Oakland dispensary, Coffeeshop Blue Sky, this week after the Department of Justice threatened his landlord with criminal prosecution. He then reopened it three doors down, with enormous posters of marijuana buds in the windows.
On Thursday morning, an employee was handing out fliers to customers at the new locale that read: “Thank you for your support. Together we will survive the attack. Long Live Oaksterdam.”
Oaksterdam, where the dispensary is located, is an area near downtown Oakland that was created largely by Mr. Lee, a soft-spoken libertarian and longtime activist in the marijuana reform movement. It features Oaksterdam University, a school he founded that offers classes in marijuana cultivation and business; a cannabis museum; and other marijuana-related businesses.
Last year, Mr. Lee bankrolled Proposition 19, a failed measure that would have legalized marijuana in California.
In a letter sent earlier this month, Melinda Haag, United States attorney for the Northern District of California, ordered Mr. Lee’s landlord to evict the dispensary or face criminal prosecution or forfeiture of the property, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
Ms. Haag declined to comment on Mr. Lee’s case.
The move was part of a crackdown by the state’s four United States attorneys on what they described as widespread criminal activity in the rapidly growing $1 billion medical marijuana industry. The effort has heightened the tension between California, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996, and the federal government, which forbids the drug.
In the Bay Area, Ms. Haag has ordered the closings of several dispensaries near schools and parks where children play. Mr. Lee’s dispensary, one of four licensed by the City of Oakland, is around the block from the Envision Academy of Arts & Technology, a charter high school.
Ms. Haag said she had received numerous letters from people concerned about the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries in their communities, particularly near schools.
“I hope these people who believe that marijuana dispensaries should operate unfettered can step back and understand that not everyone shares their position,” Ms. Haag said.
Mr. Lee’s supporters say they believe that Mr. Lee is drawing attention because he is a pioneer and a leader of the movement to legalize marijuana.
“By sending a threat to Richard it seems like they’re trying to send a message to the movement,” said Tom Angell, who was a spokesman for the Proposition 19 campaign. “But I really don’t know what the message is besides ‘Be afraid; we know who you are.’ ”
Mr. Lee declined to comment on the letter and did not return calls about the new club, but a manager there said the move had been planned before the crackdown.
Earlier in the week, Mr. Lee said he was not afraid of being a target.
“If they do decide to prosecute me criminally,” he said, “my defense is that juries cannot be punished for their verdicts.”
The amount of money wasted on marijuana is a travesty. I would just assume it goes to something else that could actually benefit people... the war on drugs is an utter failure. Why we continue to worry about marijuana is beyond me.
AY Fan Club President.
"Damn, sometimes I think you guys make being stupid seem like a skill set." - Troubador
William F. Buckley describes a conservative as, "someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop." - and then proceeds to drag civilization back to times best left in history's dungheap.
Graham Hancock hits the nail on the head in this video regarding all drugs within society.
Just and opinion:
The supervising of such, I really think is the problem, for the quality and quantity controls is where and what the GOV can't seem to keep under lock and key. They of course being in part the problems brought forth by those whose families or friends who are selling and then in turn selling out others to get the all mighty dollar. It is a greenback issue but the mere points of interests for helping people with sickness seems to be secondary. the problems could change having the issues of control settled, but again..who controls and what and when and where.
I walk around the areas sometimes in SF and see Sanctuary and it is a mess, and the media has not brought it too bright for the chances to make it legal or to lessen the hardships. I don't think that they're biased, but just not well equiped to make it sound a bit more of a open debate.
Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but Cabbage with a College Education.
It has nothing to do with money. My opinion: See video above to hear some refreshing and insightful information about the social impact of prohibition. There never was a "war of drugs." Its a war on our personal freedom and liberty. Plain and simple. The elite know this and that is why society is structured in such a hypocritical and manipulative way.