* Cultivation school teaches production of high-grade pot
* California, other states have legalized medical marijuana
* Raid dovetails with broad federal crackdown on cultivation
(Recasts lead, adds reaction, Lee background)
By Noel Randewich
OAKLAND, Calif., April 2 U.S. federal agents,
pressing a government clampdown on medical marijuana, raided a
San Francisco Bay-area college known as the "Princeton of Pot"
on Monday and briefly detained its founder.
The sweep turned Oaksterdam University, which offers courses
in the growing and dispensing of marijuana, into the latest
flashpoint between federal law enforcement and medical cannabis
advocates in California and other states where cannabis has been
decriminalized for medicinal purposes.
"This is clearly an attack on regulation," Oaksterdam
University Chancellor Dale Sky Jones said. "They just went after
a school that tries to teach people how to do things legally."
Several dozen protesters rallied at the school during the
raid, some of them openly smoking joints as they carried signs
that read "End federal interference" and "Cannabis is medicine."
Oakland police handcuffed at least one demonstrator, but the
reason for the arrest was not immediately clear.
In addition to the college, federal authorities raided the
home of veteran medical marijuana activist and Oaksterdam
founder Richard Lee, who was briefly detained during the search
but not arrested, said Drug Enforcement Administration
spokeswoman Joycelyn Barnes
Lee, confined to a wheelchair by a spinal injury, financed a
drive to collect signatures for a petition in support of
Proposition 19, a failed 2010 initiative that would have
legalized possession and cultivation of small amounts of
marijuana in California for recreational use.
Other raids were conducted at a medical marijuana dispensary
run by Lee, a nearby cannabis museum and the home of Todd
McCormick, another longtime medical marijuana activist who has
previously been arrested for growing pot, Barnes said.
Neither McCormick nor anyone else was arrested in connection
with Monday's actions, she said.
Barnes said the raids were all carried out under a federal
search warrant that a judge had ordered sealed, and she declined
further comment, except to say that DEA officers were joined by
the Internal Revenue Service agents and federal marshals.
"This is just part of the three agencies combining
resources to investigate criminality involving marijuana," she
Oaksterdam instructor David McCullick expressed outrage at
the raids, saying the school was licensed by the city and that
its "grow lab" contains fewer than 100 small cannabis plants.
"It's just a school. It's freedom of speech," he said.
CRACKDOWN CALLED MISGUIDED
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy
Alliance, a non-profit group that promotes decriminalization of
responsible drug use, said the crackdown was misguided.
"These raids will of course do nothing to enhance public
safety and health -- or to reduce the availability of
marijuana," he said in a statement. "Their principal impact will
be to push both patients and provides back into the entirely
underegulated ... underground market."
In California and other states that have legalized marijuana
for medical reasons, the U.S. government has sought in recent
months to shut down storefront medical cannabis shops and
greenhouses deemed by federal investigators to be serving as
drug-trafficking fronts, as well as those that are located close
to schools and parks.
Federal authorities have recently intensified their
crackdown in Colorado and Washington state, where voters will be
deciding in ballot initiatives in November whether to make those
states the first to legalize weed for recreational use.
A total of 16 states and the District of Columbia have
enacted some sort of legalized medical-marijuana statutes,
according to the National Drug Policy Alliance. But cannabis
remains classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law.
The Obama administration has said it would not single out
individual patients who possess or grow their own marijuana in
states with medical pot statutes. But U.S. Attorney General Eric
Holder and various federal prosecutors have said the government
would continue to target operations that support for-profit,
illegal drug dealing under the guise of medical marijuana.
Oaksterdam, widely referred to as the "Harvard of Hemp" and
the "Princeton of Pot," opened in 2007 and bills itself as the
first cannabis college in the United States. It holds classes on
Wednesday mornings and one weekend every month.
(Additional reporting by Ronnie Cohen; Writing by Steve Gorman;
Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Anthony Boadle)