The medical cannabis industry experienced its darkest day of the year last week, when federal agents armed with sledgehammers and power saws stormed into famed cannabis cultivation school Oaksterdam University and several other MMJ sites.
While a government raid on a dispensary or grow operation is nothing new – it happened dozens of times in 2011 – last Monday’s actions were particularly damaging for several reasons:
#1. They involved a medical cannabis training facility, not a dispensary or growing operation that deals directly with patients. This signals that the government is widening the scope of its crackdown, meaning even ancillary businesses involved in the MMJ industry could be at risk.
#2. They involved a well-known name in the medical marijuana industry: Richard Lee. All of the raids last Monday targeted sites tied to Lee, who founded Oaksterdam University and is a leading advocate for MMJ. This shows that the government is willing to take on respected cannabis leaders who have operated by the books for years.
#3. They came after a relatively quiet period of raid activity that had led some industry observers to believe the government was easing up on MMJ. That no longer seems to be the case.
#4. They caught the industry completely off guard. Two weeks ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought the government was preparing to go after Oaksterdam or any other medical marijuana university. Now, it seems, nothing is out of the realm of possibility.
#5. As we wrote about last week, they could spell the end for the MMJ university model that Oaksterdam pioneered – one where students learn cultivation methods by working with actual plants.
#6. They could derail the planned expansion of Oakland’s cannabis industry. The city recently approved a measure to allow four new dispensaries, doubling the industry’s size. It’s now unclear whether Oakland will move forward with those plans.
#7. They further blur the line between what’s tolerable and what’s not to the federal government when it comes to medical cannabis. To determine the exact impact of these raids, we need to know why they happened in the first place. The government has been tight-lipped on that front, but hopefully we’ll get more clarify in the days and weeks to come.
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