Just hours after federal agents raided Oaksterdam University on Monday, officials with the California cannabis cultivation school were back in their offices sifting through the wreckage, assessing the damage and weighing what’s next.
But more than the fate of Oaksterdam is at stake: The future of the entire medical marijuana college model hangs in the balance as well. The raids show that even ancillary businesses and organizations involved in medical marijuana are at risk, particularly those like Oaksterdam that deal directly with the plant itself.
It’s unclear why agents raided Oaksterdam, and it may have more to do with its founder – Richard Lee – than anything the university itself was doing. But the raids could still be enough to spook some entrepreneurs thinking about starting similar training schools as well as the handful of other notable medical marijuana colleges currently operating, such as the University of Spokamsterdam in Washington State and the Oregon Medical Cannabis University.
At the same time, these types of organizations could face image problems. One prominent medical marijuana college – Greenway University in Denver – was forced to shut down last year after the state education board discovered that the owner failed to list a felony conviction on his application to run the school. That hurt the credibility of medical marijuana schools in general, further eroding the MMJ university model. Greenway has not reopened despite vows by the owner to do so. It still maintains a website but is not holding classes, and its number is disconnected.
The raids and the credibility issue caused in part by Greenway could, at the very least, scare potential students away.
Still, these types of organizations likely will have a place in the industry.
The future of these MMJ training schools is probably more closely tied to Spokamsterdam – which doesn’t have any plants on the premises – and sites like 420 College, which provides online training, than ones that have cannabis on-site like Oaksterdam.
Spokamsterdam doesn’t expect the federal action in California to affects it operations. The university plans to continue offering classes, with its next semester starting April 11, according to Mike Levers, co-owner of the school. “It’s too early yet” to determine the impact of the Oaksterdam raid on other cannabis schools, Levers said. “But at this point I don’t see it affecting us at all.” Spokamsterdam opened in January and has trained roughly 60 students, he said.
As for Oaksterdam, officials with the school said they will “fight on.” But the raids could very well spell the end of the first and largest medical marijuana university, as there are huge legal and financial questions about whether it can continue operating.