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Freedom Leaf’s Guide to Oaksterdam

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Fifty years after the Summer of Love, San Francisco and the entire Bay Area have changed drastically, but the spirit of the movement still lives on in the East Bay city of Oakland, in the neighborhood nicknamed “Oaksterdam.”

For the past 20 years, the cannabis industry has been revitalizing downtown Oakland. It was home to many dispensary co-ops and Amsterdam-style coffeeshops before they were shut down by the Drug Enforcement Administration five years ago. Oaksterdam has been ground zero in the fight to legalize cannabis, and the industry as we know it wouldn’t exist with-out the sacrifices made by local activists.

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Students get hands-on training at Oaksterdam University.

Before Colorado legalized adult-use cannabis in 2012 and began to normalize the industry, Oakland was the first city in the U.S. to tax and regulate dispensaries, back in 2004. Canna-businesses have brought money, people and trendy store-fronts into the once-desolate area. Uber is now building a headquarters on Broadway a few blocks south of the Oaksterdam strip.

Oaksterdam is a combination of Oakland and Amsterdam, the Dutch city where marijuana use has been semi-legal for years. The area is home to America’s first cannabis-industry college, Oaksterdam University (1734 Telegraph Ave.), where anyone 18 or older can enroll in courses that cover all aspects of the budding industry, from cultivation and extraction techniques to dispensary and business operations. The faculty is composed of leading cannabis experts and activists. The same address is also home to the Oaksterdam Cannabis & Hemp Museum.

There are plenty of other places to visit in Oaksterdam, like the Fox Theater—right across the street, at 1807 Telegraph Ave. Catch a live concert at this architecturally beautiful former movie theater, built in 1928. By the mid-2000s, the Fox had closed its doors, but the local cannabis community, including Oaksterdam University, chipped in to help renovate and reopen this stellar live music space back in 2009.

If you’re looking to pick up some 420 supplies, you’ve got plenty of dispensary options, such as Oakland Community Partners (1776 Broadway) and Magnolia Wellness (161 Adeline St.). If you’re on the hunt for high-quality clones, head over to Dark Heart Nursery (1271 Washington Ave., #104).

The Patient ID Center (1733 Broadway) is the place to go if you need a medical cannabis ID; referral to compassionate groups, caregivers or lawyers; or just to get educated on the benefits of medical cannabis.

If legal advice is what you seek, visit attorney Robert Raich at his office (1970 Broadway, Suite 1200). He argued for legal medical cannabis in the two Supreme Court cases that considered it: United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative (2001) and Gonzalez v. Raich (2005).

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The «Guru of Ganja,» Ed Rosenthal, teaches at Oaksterdam U.

Need a place to stay (and medicate) in the area? Activist and author Ed Rosenthal and his wife Jane Klein  runs a “Bud & Breakfast” out of their home in nearby Piedmont, just a five-minute drive from the Oaksterdam area. You can book your stay there at Airbnb.

While you’re in the area, it’s just a short walk to the Lake Merritt, where you can relax and feel like you’re in nature, surrounded by the other type of greenery. Another fun thing to do is take in an Oakland A’s game at the Coliseum.

Welcome to Oaksterdam, America’s friendliest and most innovative cannabis community in the country.

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