Oakland: A killer rages and the feds raid


There’s little we can say about yesterday’s slaughter in Oakland. A former student at a private religious university, angry at being disrespected and teased, brought a gun to campus, and by the time he was done, seven people were dead and three others injured.

An act of rage, nurtured by resentment, ends in slaughter. Devastating for those lives were touched by the violence, especially for friends and family of the slain, but an act that can be seen as the product of alienation and the peculiarities of the human temperament.

The same day that Oakland Police deployed to the crime scene at Oikos University, other officers, clad in the same SWAT gear as those deployed at the school, were taking down another self-styled “university,” Oaksterdam.

This time the would-be Ninjas were agents from the Internal Revenue Service and Drug Enforcement Administration, and their targets were Oaksterdam University, where the curriculum focuses on the nurture and care of marijuana plants. Also hit was an associated medical marijuana dispensary.

Gavin Aronsen reports for Mother Jones:

[A]gents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, US Marshals Service, and Internal Revenue Service served a warrant on Oaksterdam University, a trade school in Oakland, California, for medical marijuana growers. Local pot activist Richard Lee, the founder of “America’s first cannabis college,” was reportedly detained briefly at his home as the feds began to confiscate documents and pot from the school and a dispensary affiliated with him.

The raid is the latest setback for local “hempreneurs” who’d planned to make Oakland into a mecca for above-ground pot cultivation and commerce. Last year, after the city council voted to approve four industrial-scale grow operations projected to net up to $7.7 million in yearly tax revenue, the Justice Department warned the city attorney that they would be considered “illegal, large-scale pot growing operations, with Oakland planning to get a cut of the illicit profits.” The city council gave in, voting 7-1 to put the plans on hold.

The Oaksterdam raid isn’t a surprise considering the Obama administration’s about-face on medical marijuana. The president campaigned on the promise that he’d stop federal raids on medical marijuana operations that were in compliance with state laws, a vow that Attorney General Eric Holder repeated after the election. But then the Obama administration raided more than 100 dispensaries in its first three years and is now poised to outpace the Bush administration’s crackdown record.

Read the rest.

Here’s how the Los Angeles Times describes Richard Lee, the 49-year-old Oakland man who founded the school:

A paraplegic who has used a wheelchair since a severe spinal injury in 1990, Lee has said he uses marijuana to treat muscle spasticity. He opened his dispensary Coffeeshop Blue Sky in 1999, worked with city officials to regulate the industry and founded Oaksterdam in 2007 to try to legitimize it. Lee used his marijuana earnings to put the legalization measure Proposition 19 on the ballot in 2010.

One Oakland city councilmember put the raid into perspective for the Times reporters Lee Romney, Joe Mozingo, and John Hoeffel:

Rebecca Kaplan, a member of the Oakland City Council, said it made no sense for the government to strike “an exemplary community member” operating in a city with some of the tightest regulations in the country. “What is the goal?” Kaplan asked. “Is it a political goal? Is it about sending a message? It certainly raises the concern that people may be targeted for their political speech.

“We have in Oakland a real need for law enforcement resources on real crime that’s a threat to people. If there’s extra law enforcement resources available, it would be nice if it would be devoted to illegal gun crime and stopping illegal gun dealers.”

Read the rest.

But the raid won high praise from one unexpected quarter, local ABC News reporter Mark Matthews in an remarkable bit of dialogue with a DEA officer captured on video by Robbie Martin of Media Roots, who was documenting the raid. The key section begins at 2:06:

At the very least, it’s a remarkable bit of fawning suck-up, and a sad commentary on the state of corporate television journalism.

Just how much of the Obama administration’s crackdown on medical marijuana is pure political pandering and how much is based on conviction remains to be seen. But one Montana landlord who merely rented to medical marijuana clinic faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

We’re unabashedly in favor of marijuana legislation. It’s much less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, and legalization would bring the countless billions now flowing through the money launderers into the open and subject to taxes, a win/win.

Punish intoxicated drivers by all means, just as drunk drivers are punished, and punish those who sell to children.

Plenty of medical evidence shows the plant confers real medical benefits on a wide range of conditions, ranging from slowing nerve degeneration caused by multiple sclerosis to restoring appetite to folks undergoing cancer chemotherapy.

And some people just enjoy the high:

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2 responses to “Oakland: A killer rages and the feds raid

  1. Roberta Boyer

    Well, I thought it interesting that there are only 2 paragraphs re: those who lost their lives and about 20 or so to the Marijuana growers/college. I,m not against Marijuana…should be leaglized……but. time and again I see human lives ignored for the mighy $. I’ve seen articles where an embezzler got 20 years,,,but a killer received 8-9 years…..and the embezzler was using the money to take care of her elderly, ill mother!! I do think we/people have our priorities mixed up. We should be caring for our young and our elderly..better schools…better care. I.m not against helping other peoples/countries…but shouldn’t we take care of our house/our own first? What do you think?

    • The reason for the difference in coverage was that reports of the shooting dominated news coverage, while the raid received far less coverage. The shootings were an act of madness; the raids an act of political calculus and a violation of a President’s own promises.

      As for embezzlers, the worst of the lot don’t go to jail at all. They preside over corporations and banks and collect fast bonuses for looting the public.

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