OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Federal agents on Monday targeted a San Francisco Bay area medical marijuana training school started by a leading pot advocate who has been instrumental in pushing for ballot measures to legalize the drug.
The doors to Oaksterdam University in downtown Oakland were blocked by U.S. marshals and yellow tape following the early morning raid by agents with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Agents carted trash bags of unknown materials out of the school as protesters gathered to condemn the action. A museum connected to the school and a nearby medical marijuana dispensary operated by Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee also were raided.
Demonstrators outside the multistory building, some openly smoking marijuana, held signs demanding an end to federal crackdowns on marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law.
Ryan Hooper, 26, of Oakland, wearing an Oaksterdam hat and sweat shirt, said he had finished taking courses at the school in February.
"This is not in the best interest of the city," Hooper said. "If they close the dispensaries, all of this stuff is going to go back underground."
Oaksterdam University was founded by Lee, who spent more than $1 million as the main backer of a California ballot measure defeated in 2010 that would have legalized marijuana in the state for recreational use. Lee did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The school offers classes to would-be medical marijuana providers in fields ranging from horticulture to business to the legal ins-and-outs of running a dispensary. It does not distribute marijuana.
Arlette Lee, an IRS spokeswoman and no relation to Richard Lee, told reporters that agents were serving a federal search warrant but said she could not otherwise comment on the purpose of the raid.
"What we are doing here today is under seal," Lee said.
Agents also raided Richard Lee's home and briefly detained him during their search but did not arrest him, said Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam's executive chancellor.
"Clearly, they're trying to knock down one of the leaders in the cannabis reform movement," Jones said.