Irish poet W. B. Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” an idea that epitomizes the mission at America’s first cannabis college, Oaksterdam University. Modern Grower host Felix Fang visits the Oakland-based educational facility that, as of 2016, graduated more than 35,000 students from 30+ countries.
“It started really as an attempt to get people involved in civics and the local government,” explains Dale Sky Jones, Executive Chancellor at Oaksterdam, who runs the school with Dr. Aseem Sappal, Provost & Dean of the Faculty. “Our founder, Richard Lee, was trying to get people to show up at City Council meetings.”
Lee, who has fought to end cannabis prohibition for a quarter century, moved to Oakland in 1997 after California passed the first medical cannabis law in the country. People always asked Lee, an acclaimed grower, to teach them his craft, and Oaksterdam started in 2007 as a way to use his skill set to motivate people to advocate.
Jones continues, “[Lee said,] ‘I’ll teach you how to grow if you’ll show up and actually advocate with me.’ He started the classes with politics, history, legal issues and really just taught people what their civic rights and responsibilities were before he would teach them how to grow.”
Today, the facility features the only hands-on cannabis lab in the world, and students can plant a seed, grow it and then harvest the plant at the semester’s end. Oaksterdam also hosts a hemp and cannabis museum, which includes items like a hemp surfboard and a 200-year-old cannabis tincture, as seen in this episode of Modern Grower.
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