In 2001’s notorious weed anthem “Because I Got High,” Afroman recalled, “I was gonna go to class, before I got high/ I coulda cheated and I coulda passed, but I got high/ I’m taking it next semester and I know why (Why man?)/ ’Cause I got high, because I got high, because I got high.”
If this becomes a problem for students at a new trade school in California, however, chances are their professors will cut them some slack. Class is now in session at Oaksterdam University, a downtown Oakland institute that offers a full cannabis curriculum.
For about $75 a pop, Oaksterdam (a play on weed-friendly city Amsterdam) hosts two to three-hour courses in cooking and baking with cannabis, the political and legal history of the drug, “cannabusiness” and a hands-on course in pot cultivation, among others.
But prospective students with impure intentions need not apply. “Most people are really intimidated when they first get here,” the university’s chancellor, Danielle Schumacher, told MTV News. “They don’t realize how serious this is until they start taking classes.”
Oaksterdam University, which opened last November in response to a budding medical-marijuana industry in the area, is meant to prepare students for future work in dispensaries — stores that patients can go to with a doctor’s note to get cannabis (there are about 400 in California). Others take classes in hopes of opening their own dispensaries, or to learn how to grow and sell weed commercially.
Many students like Ilia Gvozdenovic also study there to get more into pro-cannabis activism. Gvozdenovic, who jokingly calls the classes “way cool,” told MTV News he was “shocked and amazed” at how advanced and accepted the cannabis industry is within the Oakland community. “My ultimate goal is to see acceptance of medical marijuana by the federal government in all states,” he added.
But this might take a while. Although a majority of Californians passed a proposition in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana, the federal government has not yet acknowledged it. In 2004, Oakland residents also passed Measure Z, which says that the city of Oakland should regulate and tax cannabis for medical and private use. It also says that implementing cannabis laws should be the lowest priority for police officers. According to OaksterdamInfo.com, however, “since legal weed use is not recognized on a federal level, federal agencies such as the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] continue to confiscate weed and shut down dispensaries.”
While he could not comment on whether or not any action will be taken against the school, Michael Chapman, an assistant agent in charge with the DEA’s San Francisco office, told MTV News that “[Oaksterdam University] is a concern because of the message it’s sending to the community.”
But Schumacher says that the message that Oaksterdam is sending is just fine. “Our school and the dispensaries have been helping to keep the streets of downtown Oakland clean,” she argued. “The dispensaries have security teams and staff that want to improve the neighborhood. The weed shops and university have also been bringing lots of people to the area.”
While Schumacher does admit that some people may come to the university for the wrong reasons (i.e. to learn how to grow marijuana to sell illegally), she says that they are surprised to learn how much more money they can make (about $50,000 to $100,000 per year) and what protection they will have if they sell it legally.
“Most people who come to Oaksterdam University have good intentions,” Schumacher said. “And I’m sure anyone who doesn’t will change their mind.”