Marijuana 101: School teaches ins, outs of pot.......... - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 04-21-2008, 05:30 PM Thread Starter
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Marijuana 101: School teaches ins, outs of pot..........

Marijuana 101: School teaches ins, outs of pot

04-20) 18:22 PDT Oakland -- Ryan and Matthew Epperley awoke at 4 a.m. in Redding, loaded their Dodge Durango with clothes for the weekend and arrived in Oakland on a Saturday morning just in time to attend their first class at Oaksterdam University.

The brothers were among 20 people enrolled in the two-day course that, by Sunday evening, would teach them how to own and operate a pot club in California. They'd learn how to grow their product indoors, harvest it and cook with it, and hear from several lecturers on the legality of such a practice.

Ryan, 30, resembled Larry the Cable Guy with his well-worn baseball cap and a sleeveless shirt that revealed a shoulder tattoo of a skull and dagger. He was awake late one night watching television when he saw a report on Oaksterdam.

"I jumped right up and wrote down the phone number," Ryan said. "I knew right then, if we can get in on the ground floor and this thing takes off - we'll make a killing."

Ryan is not alone in his exuberance. Almost 12 years after California voters passed Proposition 215, the state initiative that allows dispensaries to sell marijuana to people with medical recommendations from a doctor, pot clubs have become a lucrative business. About 500 clubs in California bring in an estimated $870 million to $2 billion in revenue annually, according to the State Board of Equalization.

Yet the mixed legal messages over pot clubs - California allows it, but the federal government does not - is what caused Ryan's brother, Matthew, to get in the car and join his older brother.

Unlike Ryan, Matthew viewed a pot club business with caution. The 27-year-old said the only pot club in Redding had been quietly shut down three times, and the owners lived in constant fear of being raided and sent to prison. He was hesitant to open a shop if the consequences were too severe.

"I want to see if it's worth sticking our neck out for," Matthew said on the first day of classes. "I've got a wife and two kids at home. But I don't want to lose everything I have and go to jail over it."

Horticulture, law lessons
When Oaksterdam owner Richard Lee opened the school in November, inspired by a similar operation in Amsterdam, he did it to help educate future club owners but also to pull back the curtain on pot clubs. Lee has grown and sold marijuana for 17 years and has never been arrested, a clean record he credits to his transparent practices.

"We're doing this to show our cities we can be good neighbors," Lee told the class. "That we've got nothing to hide. That we can run a business on the up-and-up, and it's nothing to fear."

Oaksterdam University has held eight classes and graduated 160 students. The response has been so overwhelming that a Los Angeles chapter is opening this month, and Lee said he's about to sign a lease on another Oakland space that could hold 45 students every weekend, charging $200 for the course and $75 for textbooks.

Danielle Schumacher, the university's chancellor, told the class she figured at least one undercover narc had taken the course.

Aside from the Epperley brothers, the April class included three middle-aged men from Shasta County who grew outdoor plants and were looking to bolster their "grow skills"; an older, extremely polite and well-coiffed gentleman who wore a cell phone device on his right ear and was most interested in pot's effects on sickle-cell anemia; three men under 25 who kept to themselves; and three female students, none of whom fit the profile of Nancy Botwin, the suburban mom played by Mary-Louise Parker who sells pot for a living in the Showtime series "Weeds."

In a narrow classroom decorated with an American flag, Chris Conrad, a quick-talking attorney who has been trying to legalize marijuana since 1998, summarized the history of government interventions he said conspired to keep marijuana a controlled substance.

"How many of you knew there was a report that went to the White House that recommended the legalization of pot in this country?" Conrad asked the class.

Two students knew about the Shafer Commission, which was convened by President Richard Nixon and which Conrad said recommended legalization (though it only recommended decriminalizing marijuana for personal use).

Oaksterdam University's most popular class is horticulture, taught by Ilia Gvozdenovic, a growing expert from Marin County. He explained that for about $700 in supplies, students could build a "grow hut" and get their operation started.

After Gvozdenovic showed the class how to properly mix nutrients, a debate broke out among students over whether to wait eight weeks to harvest or 8 1/2 weeks. Gvozdenovic said that was a subjective decision for the grower.

"The plants will talk to you," Gvozdenovic said. "They'll tell you when the time is right."

Earlier, attorney Laurence Lichter, who has represented club owners and doctors in federal court, told students that if the feds caught them with 100 plants, they would face a five-year minimum sentence. One thousand plants results in a 10-year minimum.

But Lichter also noted that it's been a few years since anyone in the Bay Area has been prosecuted by the feds. Under Prop. 215, anyone with a doctor's recommendation can grow for personal use - 12 immature plants or six mature plants. To distribute marijuana, one needs to be either a primary caregiver - a difficult standard to meet for the typical individual - or part of cooperative.

As Lichter put it, "It's tough to be a caregiver, but it's easy to grow collectively."

In Oakland, which has the most lenient stance toward marijuana in the state, each person is permitted to grow 72 plants indoors, far higher than the 12-plant maximum state guidelines recommend. Lichter said if a grower in Oakland gathers three friends, all of whom are entitled to 72 plants, they can grow 288 together. Each plant yields about 2 to 4 ounces, which sells for anywhere from $200 to $400 an ounce, depending on the strain, potency and demand.

This was all sounding very juicy to Ryan Epperley, who was smiling and nodding during this part of Lichter's presentation. Ryan's brother, Matthew, raised his hand.

"So," Matthew asked, "if I was to open a dispensary, there's still nothing stopping the feds from coming in and closing me down?"

"The feds," Lichter told Matthew, "can take your house for one plant."

Helping sick people
Students enrolled for a variety of reasons. Tom, a middle-aged sex abuse counselor from Angels Camp in Calaveras County who did not want to give his last name because he works with children, enrolled to learn how to draw a greater yield from his six plants. Tom said he started growing marijuana after his girlfriend, who works at a hospice, told him about the elderly patients who can't take Vicodin or morphine due to the side effects. Tom doesn't smoke pot - "I wish I could, but it turns me into an idiot" - and he's not high on pot clubs.

"I think pot club owners are profiteers and scumbags," he said. "Cutting out loopholes just to make their millions."

Even though Tom voted for Prop. 215, he described the medicinal argument behind the law as "disingenuous."

He had signed up to learn how to grow better pot and cook it so he could give it away. "If I didn't know sick people, I wouldn't be here," he said.

A 53-year-old student named Sheryle represented another contingent: pain sufferers who are fed up with their meds.

Sheryle, an Oakland business owner who did not want her last name used because she feared reaction from customers who may read this article, was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and arthritis at age 35, she said. She took all the pain medications her doctor prescribed, but felt zonked out during the day and restless at night. The meds also were damaging her liver.

"I don't like getting high," Sheryle said. "I smoked, maybe, a joint in high school."

But last year, she ate a pot cookie offered by a friend, and the effects were stunning: She got the REM sleep she craved and felt productive during the day. It worked as an anti-inflammatory. Her liver damage was put on hold.

Sheryle started growing her own plants but, like a lot of novices, couldn't yield the maximum amount.

"Being able to sleep has been the biggest enhancement in my life," she said. "You might think it's a small thing, but being able to take my dogs out for a walk - that's a great joy to me."

After the class picture was taken Sunday, owner Richard Lee gave students a 17-page take-home exam. If they passed it with a 75 percent score or better and returned it to the university within two weeks, they'd get a certificate vouching for their education.

Outside the class, Matthew said he felt better about opening a club in Redding.

"A lot of people need it," Matthew said. "We don't have one in our community, so why not make it the safe place it should be, where people can come get their medicine? I mean, I'd like to open it right in the middle of downtown Redding, right where everyone can see it, just so they know we've got nothing to hide."

Ryan liked the idea. "Downtown, right next to the courthouse."

"Once you get public support," Matthew said, "it makes it harder for the feds to come in and close it down.

"When I get home," Matthew added, "the first thing I'm going to do is go down to the Human Resource Center, apply for a business license and make myself presentable."
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"Marijuana 101: School teaches ins, outs of pot"

there's "outs"?

The biggest problems we are facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all and that’s what I intend to reverse.

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Earn your PHD (Pot Head Doper).

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I think that Cheech & Chong would approve.
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I'd fly over from Japan for that (possibly)
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