Press Release  | 04/02/2012

Federal Agents with the IRS, DEA, and U.S. Marshals Raid Oaksterdam University this Morning

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Founder of Oaksterdam, Richard Lee, Main Proponent of CA’s Historic Prop. 19 Effort to Tax and Regulate Marijuana, Briefly Detained

Statement from Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance

OAKLAND, CA—Today, federal authorities, including U.S. Marshals, IRS and DEA agents, conducted an early-morning raid of Oakland’s Oaksterdam University, briefly detaining its founder, Richard Lee, who was subsequently released. Agents also conducted raids at two other medical marijuana locations. Federal authorities have not released any details about the raid, saying only that it was part of an ongoing investigation.

The raid comes on the heels of increased federal pressure on medical marijuana dispensaries in California and other states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.  Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance released the following statement about the raid:

“These federal raids appear to contradict the assurances provided by President Obama, Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department that federal law enforcement officials would defer to responsible state and local regulation in those states that had legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

“Oaksterdam and other dispensaries being targeted by federal authorities typically operate under the oversight of local authorities.  Where there are problems, they can and should be addressed by local regulatory and other law enforcement officials, not by federal police agents in early morning raids.

“These raids will of course do nothing to enhance public safety and health – or to reduce the availability of marijuana.  Their principal impact will be to push both patients and providers back into the entirely unregulated, non-tax paying underground market.  One can only surmise that the primary motivation of federal authorities is to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, not just among medical marijuana patients and providers but also among state and local officials trying to administer state laws in good faith.

“I don’t know whether this morning’s raid represents some form of “payback” for Prop 19.  But I suspect and hope that the principal impact of such heavy-handed police actions by federal authorities will be to increase support for the broader legalization of marijuana, especially among Republicans and conservatives who care strongly about states’ rights.

“It must be said, moreover, that the current situation reflects a failure of leadership by President Obama, Attorney General Holder and the U.S. Congress.”

Tommy McDonald 510-229-5215 or Tony Newman 646-335-5384

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