Oaksterdam University's 15th anniversary celebration at Fox Theatrein Oakland on September 24 will feature the premiere of American Pot Story: Oaksterdam. The documentary stars Richard Lee, who founded the stony school, and Dale Sky Jones, who succeeded him as chancellor.
It's quite a saga, worthy of an evening of commemoration. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff will kick off the festivities at 6:30 pm, followed by the screening, a Q&A and "epic" afterparty.
Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus' film took 10 years to make. "When we started in 2010 I thought we'll film a revolution and will have a new film in the can within a year," Markus tells CelebStoner. "The revolution took much longer and is not yet finished."
The "revolution" is the fight to legalize marijuana in California and throughout the nation. Oakland and San Francisco were home bases for that movement, the first cities to pass local laws relaxing medical use. That's where Lee and Oaksterdam step into the picture in 2007. A hardcore activist who believes, "You break the law to change the law," the Texas-born Lee arrives just in time to seize the moment with his novel idea for a university, one that offered a cannabis curriculm. In 2010, with Jones (nee Clare) aboard, they take the huge step of trying to pass Prop 19, a legalization ballot initiative that Lee essentially funds. After it loses, the school and Lee's other properties are raided by the DEA on the same day a mass shooting takes place in Oakland. Lee calls the raid payback for Prop 19, which failed to receive support from medical pot pioneer Dennis Peron and others.
"Dale Sky Jones is the true star of the film."
Though the wheelchair-bound Lee (he fell from a scaffold when he was younger) was never charged by the Feds who led the raid, he departs and a dispirited Jones takes over. Her story is pretty compelling, how she never graduated college but grew up to run one. After an itinerant upbringing and a failed first marriage, Jones too heads to California where she finds work at the cool school thanks to Jeff Jones, who would become her husband. Together, they revive Oaksterdam University with the help of a supportive community. She's the true star of the film.
A who's who of key advocates and players is sprinkled throughout - from current Gov. Gavin Newsom, Rep. Barbara Lee, Mikki Norris, Chris Conrad and Neill Frankilin to Alice Huffman, David Downs, Evan Nison, Ann Lee and Salwah Ibrahim. Jack Herer, Ethan Nadelmann, Doug Greene and other familiar faces show up in footage. Freedom Leaf, a magazine I edited, even has a moment with Jones on the 2016 "holidaze" issue cover.
I highly recommend American Pot Story: Oaksterdam. Please support this event by purchasing tickets here.