Oaksterdam University in place to teach next generation of pot entrepreneurs

July 27, 2009

Reuters photographer Robert Galbraith spent some time at Oaksterdam University in Oakland,  California where they teach the next generation of medical marijuana entrepreneurs. The city of Oakland had just passed Measure F, which created a special tax category for medical weed dispensaries, the first in the nation. As state and local governments look for new revenue streams in the recession, medical marijuana is becoming an attractive stream for new tax revenue.

Listening to another news report that stated there are more medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles than Starbucks coffee shops, I thought it would be a good time to look at Oaksterdam University, a “school” that teaches students the finer points of marijuana law and cultivation techniques. The school sits on a busy street corner in downtown Oakland, California with several of its business entities found throughout the neighborhood. There is a book store to sell students books and supplies, as well as hats, t-shirts and smoking paraphernalia; a glass blowing shop across the street; and a medical marijuana dispensary around the corner.

In the one-room school, students listen to lectures and grow marijuana for homework. Three type of students attend Oaksterdam — those with the intention of eventually working  in the medical marijuana industry; those wanting to grow for their personal use, and others interested in the politics of pot and those who want to make it legal. Most of the students in the evening class are middle-aged medical marijuana patients eager to learn the trade and how to grow their own medicine.

Two blocks away, at Coffeehouse Blue Sky, customers come and go after picking up their medical marijuana in a neighborhood surrounded by a variety of other businesses. There is no cliché customer—younger and older, those dressed in shorts and t-shirts and others dressed in business attire coming in for an after-work prescription. Up front, customers enter and show their identification card from their doctor.  A small room in the back of the café serves as the distribution center. Those seeking medical marijuana line up at a small window, where they choose among a variety of cannabis strains and prices before handing over cash.

While many patrons of the dispensary did not want to be photographed, few of the students in the classroom seemed to mind. It was both a fascinating and educational experience, and a glimpse at something we might see a lot more of in the future, with various forms of government looking to tap into a plentiful resource.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Right on !!!. If more people sat back and smoked a “fatty” every now and then the world would be a better place.

Posted by Trev | Report as abusive

For me it’s medicinal so one can’t talk about it too much.People should not hid to buy because it’s a drug.But what makes it dangerous when you abuse it.
Kwame Adomako Asiama

Posted by Kwama Adomako Asiama | Report as abusive

“But what makes it dangerous when you abuse it.”

“DUH” If you abuse anything, it can become a danger. One thing to bear in mind, NO ONE has ever died from the consumption of MJ. A person can not OD by consuming it.

This is truly rightious, we long time consumers. Have lived for the day to teach others our trade.
Move over US here we come!
So, what is your fear?

Posted by FARMER | Report as abusive

“Over dosing” may be impossible, but I’ve never heard of anyone directly dying from tobacco products or fried food either – and it’s commonly excepted that those products are harmful to your overall health.

Posted by Kyle | Report as abusive

I think it’s crazy that the US Government last year arrested over 800,000 people for marijuana. To think that alcohol kills more people every year than generations of marijuana use. Stupid laws. It is a fact that you cannot Overdose on Marijuana and take note that over 250 world health organizations support Medical Marijuana. It’s easier for a student in school to get black market marijuana than alcohol. That tells you we can have a regulated system that works!

Thank you MPP.ORG!

Posted by Missouri | Report as abusive

Does this mean that the federal government is not going to perform raids on cafes since the tax act was initiated? (http://www.examiner.com/x-4106-Californ ia-Statehouse-Examiner~y2009m3d30-Follow ing-raid-confusing-reigns-among-Marijuan a-advocates)

I think there should be a study of how the new marijuana laws effect the California population. I want to know if there will be an improvement in the quality of life, this way bureaucrats that have been waging an endless war on harmless users will have to eat their own rhetoric.

Posted by Lanky | Report as abusive

Having smoked pot for 45 years I can speak in all directions. I wouldn’t be here without it as I suffer from major depression and pot (and valium combined) has proven to be the best solution on earth. But the constant smoking after this long has damaged my lungs, made me dependant on it and I really don’t get the buzz anymore. I have hereditary heart issues and pot is contributing to all kinds of cardiovascular problems such as a constant racing pulse.

So think again, nothing in over abundance is good for the body. Pot and other drugs are a diversion keeping us off our spiritual path.

Posted by City Buddha | Report as abusive

I smoke pot.lots.i think that is over perscribed in california.i dont smoke for medical reasons i smoke for pleasure.sometimes when my back hurts it helps but for the most part i just like being stoned.i have seen so many folks get into smoking and have watched while they efectivly smoked thier life away.its not for everyone.if it adversly efects your life as with anything you should not use it.you can become addicted and you can overdose your life and become a worthless stoner.

Posted by humboldtholder | Report as abusive

Even water is toxic in large enough amounts. Certain drugs work for certain things. Weed may not be for everyone but it’s stupid to deny it to those it does work for. If you’ve had a bad experience with it, don’t use it. Valium may stop some from having a panic attack. It might also make others tired or want to vomit. No one drug is a cure all for every human.

Keeping marijuana illegal ends up imprisoning harmless citizens and costs the state billions in tax dollars to incarcerate and adjudicate. Not to mention the damage done to those who have trouble finding a job afterward or attempt to get financial aid for schooling. Additionally, marijuana is a great natural resource for the nation other than for smoking. Legalizing marijuana is a win-win situation for all of us. Anyone educating themselves on marijuana as a product now stands to make a good deal of money in the business later.

Posted by Robotic | Report as abusive

“have seen so many folks get into smoking and have watched while they efectivly smoked thier life away”

I agree that there are alot of potheads like that, but at the same time there are alot that are productive, hard-working members of society, myself and alot of my friends included.

I’ll admit, I probably smoke more than I should on a regular basis (I use my vaporizer as much as possible, and eagerly await the day it is legal so that the price drops and I can afford to never have to smoke again, getting the effect from weed food / drinks). But I’m not wasting my life by any means (masters degree, great job, great relationships, etc).

Everyone is different and to each his own.

Posted by foomanchu | Report as abusive

Taxing medicine??? I think we’re getting a little confused here. The value of marijuana for glaucoma (to save sight) and anorexia of chemotherapy (to save life) seems well established, and taxing it for those purposes is surely sick.

My own experience is that marijuana can help you survive an unbearably toxic environment. My parents were both malignantly mentally ill and corrupt. I smoked pot for 12 years, and unless I’m much mistaken, it’s the only way I survived that poison in my life. I then quit smoking pot, during a “drought,” because I wanted to give my psychiatrist the best, fair chance, and a few years later I expelled my parents from my life (much to the ire of my psychiatrist). It almost killed me, but it was the most health-giving thing I ever did for myself.

I’m no longer an unconditional supporter of marijuana. It does, indeed, take away your “edge.” And in my case, I craved it enough that I smoked it at times when it caused a problem. I wouldn’t smoke it now if I could do it the rest of my life legally. I’m now a tippling alcoholic (i.e. don’t get drunk), but I probably would have been one if I’d kept toking.

To the recreationists: Drugs (such as my own alcohol and coffee) can help pass the time, but don’t think you can pour motor oil into your gas tank. Life is trickier than you may dream!

When marijuana is medically necessary, it should be legal without tax. But let’s not have it advertised on TV.

Posted by Roller | Report as abusive

The current situation is the direct result of President Obama speaking out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand Obama is saying legalization is a bad idea, yet he does nothing. Furthermore, the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy” is saying “Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine, Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit…”

On the other hand AG Holder is telling people he is deemphasizing raids on “care providers” and “it’s a state problem”. He says this despite the clear intent of Congress and the Supreme Court’s upholding the law made by Congress. Evidently AG Holder forgot his job is to enforce the law (as opposed to an individual case) and thinks it’s to make it by not enforcing it.

The irony is Congress gave AG Holder the power & process to make it available for medicinal purposes. But here again AG Holder has done nothing.

Posted by Itscalled Duplicity | Report as abusive

i just want to say that i love that this conversation can actually take place.

Posted by Alex | Report as abusive

Legalize MJ, collect taxes, extreme taxes, then let those who want, smoke it. I wouldn’t, it causes confusion, old age causes confusion. It causes forgetfulness, old age does the same. To each his own.
I wouldn’t see the danger in alcohol until I quit drinking.

Posted by Thinker | Report as abusive

Marijuana..ah..for some its like being on haven and some call it bad. Whatever be the scenerio I personnely love it. When my office hours end a stuffed cigarette takes away stress with its smoke. And I also do not find it addictive rather I feel its better than a normal cigarette.

It improves digestion atleast in my case, gives me rid of stress, above all relaxes me, so a cigarette or two stuffed with marijuana in a day are not bad. Thats what I feel.

Those against it must agree that there numerous more addictive more harmful man made drugs are flooding the market why they do not fight against them?


I never felt like i can’t live without it. But whenever smoke it everything around feels good.

Posted by Prashant Sharma | Report as abusive

I just recently got my doctors recommendation and I am convinced that Marijuana should simply be legalized. There are plenty of items that are legal yet just as lethal to the body if not worse such as alcohol, tobacco, fried foods etc.

The bottom line is Marijuana use is not being hindered even a little bit with the current legal landscape, so we as a country might as well stop wasting money and resources to continually try to stop the use of marijuana. Legalize it, tax it, and use that money to educate and regulate. Prohibition is ineffective and provides zero benefit to anyone.

Posted by Daniel | Report as abusive

Guns in the hands of responsible citizens is not a danger!
Alcohol at the lips of responsible citizens is not a danger!
Smoking cigarettes in moderation are not a danger!
Eating “fast-foods” is not a danger if eaten in moderation!

Finally “smoking POT” is NO MORE OF A HAZARD than any of the above
in moderation!!!

Posted by Jim Davis | Report as abusive

See the story of the border patrol agent who was killed by a Mexican drug runner. I think we have a solution to more than just a tax problem here.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Thank you for the article, this made my day! I am so happy this is taking place in my life and you should be too. We should not have to smoke cannabis in the dark and be afraid of the government. I am an honest US citizen that pays intense taxes and support america 100%, but I smoke cannabis to relax and medicate.

Posted by Alan | Report as abusive

Great that a debate like this is finally taking place – LONG overdue. I am a longtime cannabis enthusiast but have only recently started to appreciate its full and unique healing effects. My father who has cancer has started to eat brownies with cannabis and they are having a wonderful effect on his wellbeing. They help him to sleep and also stimulate his appetite and help him to relax in generall. Thank God we have this herb as they have improved his life no end. My sister in law has recently started chemotherapy for breast cancer and she too has found them a great help for aiding sleep and reducing nausea. Now i just hope that we can keep going and make this herb available to those who require it.

Posted by Ronan | Report as abusive

If anything, marijuana needs to be reevaluated by the FDA and take into account modern research and social stigma when Scheduling this drug. As it stands now, it is a Schedule I narcotic, along with hallucinogens, cocaine, and heroine. Under this Schedule, drugs are considered highly addictive, do not have a significant therapeutic purpose, and/or have a negative social stigma (this is what made it illegal in the first place). Since then, decades of research has shown that marijuana has countered these three claims. There is no addictive compounds in THC, unlike nicotine, alcohol, or the array of prescription drugs we take and you won’t suffer physical withdraws from it. In addition, it is shown to be therapeutic in over 200 conditions and diseases. Thousands of products including textiles, oils, fuel can be made from hemp which is still illegal to grow. If the FDA were to reevaluate this drug, it would probably be placed in Schedule IV, and our country would see many benefits from this. I agree with only taxing the recreational sale of the drug. If one were to get a prescription, then there should be no tax burden placed on the patient. What is going to help the most is people coming forward and admitting to using this drug. Once the negative social stigma is picked down, the government will be more likely to act at legalizing marijuana.

Posted by Jennifer | Report as abusive

[…] September 25, 2009 Marijuana […]

Posted by Flash Audio Slideshow Examples « Publishing to the Web Fall 2009 | Report as abusive

But in terms of tax revenues, future business direction. But I’m not sure that it is safe. Just like cigarettes. I think that medical marijuana is still not completely Research to fully talk about the benefits. I have it raises some concerns.

Posted by StopSmokerMen | Report as abusive

Hi, I hear that marijuana can help me off high blood pressure medication. Where do I see a doctor who agrees with this and would issue a certificate so that I may try marijuana? I dont think Kaiser doctors would agree. Thanks Brian

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive