Marijuana is a wondrous herb. It’s a pain killer and mood enhancer, making life possible for people suffering from various ailments. Of course, once the prohibition of alcohol was lifted, Harry Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics needed a new drug to vilify and prohibit. They settled on marijuana and started a ninety-year reign of terror against U.S. citizens.
In the shadow of DEA enforcement then, it’s remarkable that Richard Lee sought to found a college to train people how to run small medical marijuana businesses. That institution, Oaksterdam, is one-of-a-kind, and I am so very grateful I get to review the marvelous historical retrospective of Oaksterdam and its political crusade to legalize recreational marijuana, American Pot Story: Oaksterdam. This brave work, written by Dan Katzir and directed by Katzir and Ravit Markus, is a testament to the enduring spirit of liberty that will repel the evil plots of the Federal Government every time.
After relocating, in 2007, from Texas to Oakland, CA, Lee decided to help small business marijuana distributors by training entrepreneurs how to develop dispensaries and grow medical marijuana for profit. By 2008, Dale Sky Jones had relocated to Oakland and needed something to do. So she enrolled in Oaksterdam and now serves as its chancellor. Before that, she completed her training and became the executive in charge of the day-to-day running of the educational program.
“…Lee sought to found a college to train people how to run small medical marijuana businesses.”
Lee and Jones are the central personalities at the heart of the first-ever effort to legalize recreational marijuana: 2010’s failed Prop 19. Although the legislation failed, it was a watershed moment. It led to the 2012 DEA-powered raid of Oaksterdam and eventually to the retirement of Richard Lee. Jones grabbed the baton and had to figure out a way forward for the university.
American Pot Story: Oaksterdam shows how brilliant a lady Jones is. She is a vivacious interviewee and following her as she canvasses California in support of the eventually victorious Prop 64 is fascinating. Richard Lee is a quiet, more taciturn individual. Bound to a wheelchair thanks to an accident in his youth, his half smile is charming. Lee walks us through the mentality of running a school you know the Federal government could shut down at any time. The 2010 mural promoting marijuana legalization that used to sit on the outer wall of Oaksterdam was his brainchild and a wondrous monument. When it eventually got painted over, this fueled the fight to legalize weed and force the Federal Government to respect states’ rights.
A cleanly shot, beautifully edited film, this documentary relates the definitive story of marijuana legalization on the state level. Will the Federal Government ever get out of the way? Only time will tell. For now, it’s a damn good thing that people like Lee and Jones are wandering this Earth, determined to leave it a little better than they found it. Katzir and Markus deserve award consideration for this magnificent work.
This is a must-watch for every American. Sure, our empire is powerful and scary, but it can be opposed in a non-violent way and forced to do the right thing. American Pot Story: Oaksterdam brilliantly captures a moment where two people led, inspired, and educated hundreds, if not thousands, of others on the way to regaining some freedom in America.
"…a must-watch for every American."