Richard Lee Endorses Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment

By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in Legislation, News

Monday, April 16, 2012 at 8:04 am

Cannabis icon Richard Lee, in one of his first statements since the raid on Oaksterdam University, has endorsed the Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment. 

"Can you imagine seeing your life’s work raided and seized?" Lee asked in a telephone interview. "Many patients like me can."

At age 27, while working as a lighting technician, Lee fell off a scaffold and broke his back. A paraplegic, he must now use a wheelchair. Standard prescription pills didn’t ease the pain, but medical cannabis did.

On April 2, the DEA, IRS, and U.S. Marshals raided Richard Lee’s famed cannabis trade school, Oaksterdam University, in Oakland, California. Since opening in 2007, Oaksterdam has provided cannabis industry training to about 15,000 experts and activists, and is fully compliant with state and local law.

Although Lee was detained during the raid, he was not arrested, but still fears prosecution.

Because of prohibition, a conviction involving cannabis can result not only in jail time, but also in the denial of federal benefits such as college loans, public housing and professional licenses.

"Medical cannabis prohibition is unjust and counterproductive," Lee said. "Because I believe what I have done is moral and ethical, I am standing up for my rights: My right to use medical cannabis to alleviate my suffering; my right to be free of discrimination and interference from the state with regard to my use; my right to access goods and services to enable my use.

"In short," Lee said, "I’m standing up for my rights by endorsing the Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment."

Lee noted that the U.S. Justice Department may well have had a much more difficult time targeting him if he and his school had been protected by a similar amendment in California.

The Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment is a proposed citizen-initiated amendment to the Ohio Constitution, slated for the ballot in the fall of 2012. It focuses on extending to patients eight rights based on the Bill of Rights within the Ohio Constitution.

The amendment also establishes an Ohio Commission of Cannabis Control to not only support, uphold and defend these rights, but also to regulate medical cannabis in Ohio.

Getting the OMCA on ballot will require the collection of 385,000-plus signatures by July 4, 2012. Thousands of people have contacted the campaign to help and securing funding for a complementary paid signature effort is the only obstacle left in getting on the ballot this year.

"Imagine election day 2012," Lee said. "All eyes are trained on Ohio – a perennial swing state during a high profile presidential race. Five million voters affirm the right to use cannabis as medicine. This may represent one of the strongest statements that cannabis reform has ever had the opportunity to make.

"I ask all Ohioans and reformers to stand with me, stand together and stand up for the right to use cannabis as medicine," Lee said. "Support the Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment and help get it on the ballot in the fall." CONTINUE READING…

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Richard Lee is giving up his downtown Oakland-based pot businesses after a federal raid bankrupted him.

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Above:  U.S. marshals stand at the entrance of Oaksterdam University in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, April 2, 2012. The federal agents raided the medical marijuana training school at the heart of California’s pot legalization movement. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

OAKLAND, Calif.—The founder of a Northern California medical marijuana training school said Friday he was giving up his downtown Oakland-based pot businesses after a federal raid bankrupted him.

Richard Lee has been instrumental in pushing for ballot measures to legalize the drug, giving more than $1.5 million as the lead financial backer of a 2010 initiative to legalize the drug in the state. He said he will now focus solely on his advocacy work.

"I am now in this legal situation, so it’s better for me to step aside," Lee said.

Internal Revenue Service and Drug Enforcement Administration agents on Monday raided Oaksterdam University, Lee’s home and a medical marijuana dispensary he also founded. The purpose of the raids hasn’t been disclosed.

Oaksterdam University 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.

Agents confiscated marijuana, computers and files from Lee’s businesses, making it difficult to continue operations, he said. The university has held some classes since the raid and is soliciting donations to stay up and running. Oaksterdam Executive Chancellor Dale Sky Jones is working to put together a new leadership team for the school, he said.

Lee said the agents who came to his home Monday morning showed him search warrants but did not tell him what they were seeking or the purpose of their investigation.

"It was something we’ve always feared, but we’ve always known it’s a part of the politics of this issue," Lee said.

Federal prosecutors in San Francisco, who have been leading a months-long crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Lee said he was not interrogated but simply detained while the agents conducted the raids. He was not arrested.

Lee said his decision to step back from the businesses was not part of any deal with investigators.

"We don’t know if it will make any difference at all to them," he said.

But the 49-year-old paraplegic and former roadie said he hopes the raid will make a difference in promoting the pro-marijuana legalization agenda.

A street protest drew several hundred demonstrators to downtown Oakland within a few hours of the raids, and more than 18,000 have signed Lee’s online petition on Change.org demanding an end to the federal crackdown on medical marijuana in California.

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