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Inside Oaksterdam University’s 10th Anniversary Bash

The Scottish Rite Center in Oakland, California rocked on Saturday, Nov. 18 as Oaksterdam University celebrated its 10th anniversary in style. Among the nearly 500 people who attended were cannabis dignitaries like OU founder Richard Lee and his mother Ann, Ed Rosenthal, Lynette Shaw and Kyle Kushman. It was an evening of recognition, gratitude and some surprises.

The program began with a graduation ceremony for Oaksterdam alumni from April 2012 to the present. Each received a commemorative certificate from Lee, executive chancellor Dale Sky Jones and myself. “First they ignore you, then they mock you and punish you, then you win,” Lee told the crowd from his wheelchair. Five years earlier, Oaksterdam had been raided by federal and state authorites, which hastened Lee’s departure from the institution he started in 2007.

The big surprise of the night was Alameda County presenting OU with a commendation as America’s first cannabis college, hands-on training facility and academic institute dedicated to educating the community and industry. The county rarely issues commendations, which made the declaration a true highlight.

O’Dammy Awards were handed out to advocates, activists, business leaders, entrepreneurs, students, alumni, faculty, staff and everyday citizens. The winners included:

Cannabis Pioneer Award: Lynette Shaw (Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana)

Advocacy Award: Valerie Corral (Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana) and Ann Lee

Freedom Fighter Award: Diane Wattles-Goldstein (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)

Living Legend Award: Richard Lee

Meritorious Service in Public Office Medal: Rebecca Kaplan (Oakland City Council)

Luminary Award: Tommy Chong

Literary Excellence Award: Ed “Guru of Ganja” Rosenthal

International Cannabis Advocacy Award: Ras Iyah H (Rastafari Rootzfest)

Courage “Good Soldier” Award: OU instructor Sarah Shrader and Jose Gutierrez, a radio reporter arrested protesting the 2012 raid

Dedication “Good Soldier” Award: Mikki Norris (TheLeafOnline.com)

Skill in Combat Award: Alice Huffman (NAACP) and Hezekiah Allen (California Growers Association)

“The evening was about honoring and thanking people who’ve made a difference in the industry,” Dale Sky Jones commented afterwards. “There’s still much to do to advance cannabis reform in the United States.”

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