OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee said Friday that he will give up ownership of all of his Oakland-based marijuana businesses after a federal raid on his home, the university and the businesses on Monday.
Lee, 49, who backed a close but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to legalize marijuana in California in 2010, said he will now focus his attention on campaigns to legalize marijuana in other states in November.
He said legalization measures are already on the ballot in Colorado and Washington and similar measures could also be on the ballot in other states such as Oregon, Montana, Michigan and Missouri.
KCBS’ Rebecca Corral Reports:
The raid by the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service seized assets at the university and the businesses such as marijuana plants, bank accounts, records and computers.
IRS spokeswoman Arlette Lee wasn’t available for comment Friday on the purpose of the raid or the possibility that charges could be filed against Lee, who was briefly detained on Monday but wasn’t arrested.
Richard Lee, who is not related to the IRS spokeswoman, said armed federal agents came to his apartment in Oakland early Monday morning but they were “fairly polite and cordial.”
He said, “I’m steeling myself” for the possibility that he could face federal charges but said he also thinks a prosecution against him could make more Americans support the legalization of marijuana.
“I can only hope that my sacrifice and struggle and battle will help” the effort to legalize the drug, Lee said.
He said he’s heartened by a recent Rasmussen poll that found that a majority of respondents support legalizing marijuana, with 47 percent in favor of legalization and 42 percent opposed.
Lee said that since the raid on Monday, more than 20,000 people have signed an online petition that calls on President Obama and the DEA to “stop the raids on the medical cannabis industry.”
The petition called the Oaksterdam raid “a senseless act of intimidation.”
Lee said, “I’m very disappointed in Obama” because the president said at the beginning of his administration in 2009 that he would change federal policies and support medical marijuana.
Lee, a former rock concert lighting technician who became a paraplegic after a severe spinal injury in 1990, founded Oaksterdam in 2007.
The university is a trade school that offers classes to medical marijuana providers in fields ranging from horticulture to business to the laws concerning running a dispensary.
Lee said enrollment at the school peaked in 2009 and early 2010 based on optimism that the Obama Administration would support medical marijuana but started falling later in 2010 when that proved not to be the case.
Although Lee is stepping down from Oaksterdam, he said the university will continue to operate and is setting up a website so that people can support it with contributions.
While Lee is closing his marijuana businesses in Oakland, he said he will still operate the Oaksterdam Gift Shop at 405 15th St., which is around the corner from the university, which is located at 1600 Broadway.
He said the gift shop doesn’t sell marijuana products and instead sells Oaksterdam souvenirs such as T-shirts, sweaters, hats, golf balls and ashtrays.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)