Oakland's Pot Future Is Up in the Air

Many within the community wonder about an uncertain future.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Joe Rosato Jr.
    Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee attends pot rally in San Francisco one day after his Oakland businesses were the subject of a federal raid.

    Business is booming at Harborside Health Center in Oakland as medical marijuana patients from across the state seek new places to buy cannabis amid a federal crackdown on marijuana.

    "We have been seeing a number of patients we have been calling refugee patients who have come from jurisdictions where dispensaries in their communities have been closed down forcing them in some cases to drive over 100 miles to get their marijuana," said Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center.

    Just two weeks ago federal agents raided Oaksterdam University, a medical marijuana training school. The agents briefly detained its founder Richard Lee, sending shock waves across Oakland's medical cannabis community.

    "I think it's a terrible shame," Lee said. "So many people lost their jobs. A lot of building owners lost rent. The city of Oakland lost a lot of taxes."

    Lee's decided to turn over operations to someone else and Tuesday night the usually full classrooms were empty as the remaining staff figures out how to re-group.

    Meanwhile the future of Oakland's pot industry is uncertain. The city of Oakland has issued permits for four new dispensaries including one slated to open on Broadway Street but now it's unclear whether any new dispensaries will open up shop.

    "I think it's uncertain whether any of the new licensees in Oakland are going to be able to find a landlord who's willing to lease to them and it may mean they're unable to excercise their licenses," DeAngelo said.

    And while Harborside, which paid the city of Oakland more than a $1 million in taxes last year, may be getting a bump in business now, the dispensary's director fears it may be just a matter of time before his place gets a visit from the feds.

    "I and more importantly many of my patients have really been terrified by this," DeAngelo said. "We don't know whether we're going to be next. I never know when I come to work in the morning whether I'm going home at night or whether I'm going out in handcuffs to prison."