OAKLAND, Calif. — Federal agents targeted one of the country’s leading marijuana advocates Monday in a raid on a San Francisco Bay area medical marijuana training school instrumental in pushing for ballot measures to legalize the drug.
The doors to Oaksterdam University in downtown Oakland were blocked by US marshals following an early-morning raid by agents with the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration. A museum connected to the school as well as a nearby medical marijuana dispensary operated by Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee were also raided.
Arlette Lee, an IRS spokeswoman, told reporters that agents were serving a federal search warrant but said she could not otherwise comment on the purpose of the raid.
Agents also raided Richard Lee’s home and briefly detained him during their search but did not arrest him, said Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam’s executive chancellor.
“Clearly they’re trying to knock down one of the leaders in the cannabis reform movement,’’ Jones said.
Agents carted trash bags of unknown materials out of the school to a waiting van as protesters gathered to condemn the raids. Oaksterdam University offers classes to would-be medical marijuana providers in fields ranging from horticulture to business to the legal ins-and-outs of running a dispensary. The school does not distribute marijuana.
Demonstrators outside the multistory building, some openly smoking marijuana, held signs demanding an end to federal crackdowns on medical marijuana. A large mural on the side of the school makes the building one of the neighborhood’s most visible landmarks.
Ryan Hooper, 26, of Oakland, wearing an Oaksterdam hat and sweatshirt, said he had finished taking courses at the school in February. “This is not in the best interest of the city,’’ Hooper said. “If they close the dispensaries, all of this stuff is going to go back underground.’’
Oaksterdam University was founded by Richard Lee, who spent more than $1 million as the main backer of the California ballot measure, defeated in 2010, that would have legalized marijuana in the state for recreational use.