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.