"The raid on Oaksterdam was interesting as it took the DEA’s crackdown on California’s medical-marijuana business to a new level,” she says.
Lee, a former rock-band roadie, says he is not abandoning the cause. His Oaksterdam University, which has graduated about 4,000 students since 2007, remains open, as does his dispensary. But Lee says he will transfer the business to new operators and shut down his own nursery.
“It’s time for others to take over,” he told the Associated Press.
Some observers agree.
“Sometimes the leaders of movements must step aside to ensure they continue to last beyond their own lifetimes. That is the case of Richard Lee," says Sam Singer, who runs a public relations firm in the Bay Area and lives on the border between Oakland and Berkeley. "He is smart to step aside, focus on his own legal issues, and let new leadership come to the forefront.”
Still many acknowledge the role Lee played in advancing the medical-marijuana movement.
Standing outside the Med’s Merchant marijuana dispensary in the Los Angeles suburb of Sherman Oaks, where she goes for marijuana to ease chronic back pain, Stephanie Menlo says: “He did for marijuana legalization and acceptance what any good pioneer does: carve out the way in a society that is not yet ready to embrace a good thing."
Marijuana advocates say he helped changed the national conversation on marijuana.