As harvest time approaches, so does the end of summer and that means school is right around the corner. Not everyone hates school, especially those attending Oakland’s increasingly popular Oaksterdam University located in downtown Oakland’s Oaksterdam district.
“Oaksterdam University is a trade school for the cannabis industry,” says the university president, Richard Lee. “It was founded in November 2007. The idea is that there are a lot of people who want to get involved in the politics of cannabis and help with cannabis prohibition but they don’t know how or they want to get into business here in CA. We have a major medical marijuana industry and we’re working on legalizing it for everybody so we need people who can operate in the industry in a safe and responsible manor so that’s what we’re here to help train them to do that.”
So who exactly is interested in the marijuana industry and what sort of folks attend the university? “We have all kinds of students as far as age and demographics and types, says Lee. “I’d say the majority are older people looking for a second career, things like that…it’s not like college kids primarily. In general it breaks down into 3 categories. There are people who are looking to work in the industry, get a job at a dispensary. Our first valedictorian got a job right away at Berkeley Patients Group, a nearby dispensary. Or (they want) to start their own business. We’ve had students go on to start dispensaries. The second group would be people who just want to grow for themselves, personally, so they need to learn about the politics and legal issues of doing that as well as the actual how-to’s of horticulture. And, the 3rd type are people who are just interested in the politics who want to get involved in changing the law and want to learn more about what’s going on with cannabis and repealing cannabis prohibition.”
Speaking of pot politics, they’re rapidly changing aren’t they? And, it seems like Oakland is leading the charge. We recently heard about how you and other dispensaries here in Oakland opted to RAISE taxes? “Measure F is the first Cannabis business tax, it’s the 1st time that a special a special category has been created just for cannabis businesses. Before, the dispensaries of Oakland were under the regular retail rate of .12%, this sets up this new cannabis category and increases it or sets the rate at 1.8%. Almost 2% or 15 times the old amount. IT’s a big increase,” explains Lee. “Our dispensary nearby will go from paying about $3,000 a year to about $45,000 in those gross receipts business license tax, we already pay $30,000 a year though in permit fees as well as 300,000 a year in sales tax and about a half-million in payroll and income tax.”
“The other historic thing,” adds Lee, “ is that there are other cities already looking to copy it. I was just reading online that Sacramento is looking to copy it, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Berkeley. I’m sure a lot of cities will be doing this with the economic hard times. We’re in favor of paying taxes. We believe that we are a responsible part of the community that we should pay taxes, pay our fair share for police and roads and everything else we use. So we’re happy to pay taxes. It’s a lot better to pay taxes than it is to be arrested and thrown in jail or another way we have put it is ‘it’s a lot cheaper to pay taxes than it is to pay lawyers.'”
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