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News Blog

Oaksterdam says Yes we Cannabis!

by Jesse Fruhwirth
- Posted // 2009-10-16 -

Newsweek has a great article on Oaksterdam University, a school devoted to the study of cannabis, and also its home, Oakland, Calif., a city now so associated with normalized marijuana laws that it, too, is sometimes referred to as Oaksterdam.

The nickname, you might have guessed, is a mash up of Oakland and drug-normalized city of Amsterdam. Founded in 2007, Oaksterdam University now has three campuses: one in Los Angeles, another in Sebastopol, about 60 miles north of Oakland. They teach things like horticulture and glass blowing (for pipes).

The Newsweek article doesn't break any new ground, but this is a well-done profile of the first city in contemporary America to reap tax revenues from the sale of pot. They estimate that in less than a year's time, (medical) marijuana tax receipts will provide about $1 million dollars for Oakland alone. And cannabis dispensaries lead that charge, literally begging to be taxed, hoping the results would tempt other municipalities to legalize the stuff to buoy public coffers, which in turn, the thinking goes, will lead to more legalization. About 80 percent of Oakland voters approved the ever-so modest tax ($18 on every $1,000 in sales - that's only $.90 on a $50 purchase).

Oakland has been financially depressed for so long, it doesn't surprise me that they were the first to move in this direction. Which would you rather have? Legal pot and open libraries, or prohibited pot and shuttered libraries?

After all, as Newsweek reports, it's estimated that marijuana prohibition costs about $13 billion per year nationwide, and failing to tax the sale of the stuff results in lost revenue of about $7 billion.

That's a $20-billion policy!

Do these developments have impact on Utah politics? Well, that's doubtful in the short-term (Utah was the first state to outlaw marijuana in 1915, well before the federal prohibition, and continues to be dominated by Mormon elected leaders who don't even like alcohol). However, the cannabis-normalization movement is gearing up even here in Zion. Almost 100 years after the state prohibition, Salt Lake City now has a chapter of NORML and for many years the University of Utah has been home to a chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. It's something to note that even in one of the nation's most conservative states there is now home-grown opposition to the status quo.

Update: Obama Administration releases new rules on prosecuting (or not prosecuting) medial marijuana dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal. More from the Marijuana Policy Project: Obama Administration Ends Medical Marijuana Raids in 13 States

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