When did you start interacting with or using cannabis? I know that Jeff, like me, you lost a parent to cancer, but what is the true beginning of both your interactions with the plant?
JJ: In 1991 I grew it in my basement in South Dakota before I ever tried it. Because I was a DARE kid, I was worried about what I would find on the street. But . . . it kept growing. No flowers, just taller and taller until it was close to the ceiling. Then I learned about photo light periods to trigger flowering.
DSJ: My first recollection was the odor coming from my mom’s room at night when I was growing up and snuck out of bed. As a teenager I experimented with a friend (I tried it for the first time during the summer that I visited my dad in Seattle — it was either the summer of ’88 or ’89 so I was maybe 14. I was caught upon return with a teeny tiny nugget and got in so much trouble with my mom I did not try it again for five or six years! You know, it’s funny that’s also one of the moments that I can put my finger on in hindsight that stress-triggered vomiting for me because that day I remember my mom was so fucking mad I started throwing up. Turns out I had undiagnosed cyclic vomiting.
How old were you the first time you grew cannabis?
JJ: Like I said, in 1991. But Dale has not been a grower of anything other than babies and fur babies!
DSJ: The mission is to not kill the plants. So that is my contribution — stay away until time to trim!
In the beginning of your life in the weed game, did you believe it would ever become legal for real?
JJ: Adamantly. Yes. Completely. I am a man who believed cannabis would be legal and wanted to engage as much as possible the folks on her side to push it farther.
DSJ: I bet my life on it. It felt like I finally figured out my purpose on this planet. I fell in love with the problem and keep finding new ways to apply torque to pressure change every which way — jury boxes, voting booths, legislative efforts. Change is a powerful motivator. We changed the conversation. In politics and across the dinner table. Educating over 80,000 people from 110 countries is my secret to success. Oaksterdam Alumni are my Social Justice Gladiators. They do well and they do good.
Do you support federal rescheduling/legalization and why?
DSJ: Yes to federal DE-scheduling. It never should have been Schedule 1. We should have expanded the IND program (Investigational New Drug applications), especially in light of AIDS patients showing improved quality of life by utilizing cannabis, and instead Bush Senior shut it all down.
Do you feel the system is set up to fail?
JJ: It is hard to get stability.
DSJ: Especially without fair taxes and safe banking. The American system is set up to favor the wealthy. Federally legal is only way for this to work. Allow interstate and international trade. It’s also the best way to remove the saturation. Allow export. No limit on the number of small licenses as limits increase public corruption and monopoly. The 13th Amendment was to end slavery, however there is an exception to enslaving people convicted of a crime. In the 21st century the U.S. allows legal enslavement of mostly poor and mostly people of color for “drug crimes.”
Do you believe medical cannabis should still have a space in the adult use market?
JJ: No. Medical should have its own space and be exempt from adult use requirements and taxes under Prop 215 in California for small collective and private medical cultivation and sharing. Nationally, medical should be allowed to be exempt from taxes and fees because it is not to be taxed like adults.
DSJ: Medicinal cannabis could have insurance reimbursement and be covered by Medicare or be available at reduced cost for people collecting SSI.
Do you believe that patients should still have access to high-dose materials?
JJ and DSJ: Yes. Patients should be exempt from limitations of adult use.
Have you ever had negative side effects from using cannabis? (Other than raids which are a shitty side effect!)
DSJ: Yeah, getting caught with it! Jeff has thrown up and gotten dizzy. I’ve gotten dizzy and thrown up and passed out. Sometimes it helps my cyclic vomiting, sometimes it is a trigger. I have to trust my intuition. I’ll sometimes consume a little more hoping it’ll help how I feel and that is what puts me over the edge into a vomiting cycle. It makes me wonder what kind of (serotonin?) system issue I have.
How do you educate your children on Canna?
DSJ: It is hard because the info they read in the world is rather negative. My middle child is reading about it and asks questions, especially about smoking and if it is bad. I try to talk with them in age appropriate ways about science. An interesting juxtaposition is that not everything you read in history books is not exactly accurate or inclusive either so I’m able to have a conversation about drugs, that is, how we look at history and what is in the books versus, say, what really happened.
Do you feel it has a negative side effect on raising children?
JJ: More than anything it has been a threat to their situation because their parents were involved with activities that maybe threatened our freedom as advocates. Our kids don’t have a fallback plan to their parents raising them.
DSJ: We were told after the 2012 raid they were telling Richard (Lee) they would arrest and indict us if he did not talk. Our lives were threatened by all the alphabet agencies and drug cartels and some of our friends who thought stopping us would stop the mission. The worst was the fear of CPS taking them if we were arrested because we got political. No one was ever indicted and the affidavit from the raid remains sealed to this day.
Jackson told me last week if there was a Cannabis Hall of Fame we should be in it! LOL. One of my favorite memories is when Jesse saw a cannabis leaf at around 3 years old he pointed and said, “Look mom, an Oaksterdam leaf!”
Like anything, You need to be careful about how you store cannabis, alcohol, Rx drugs. Danger is in the dose with anything. Kids should not have open access to anything but information.
Does it improve your parenting? Is the family business more advantageous?
JJ: Yes, it makes me a calmer father and husband.
DSJ: I have been around alcoholics, and the choice of cannabis over alcohol is clear to just be a friendlier, more patient, and more in-tune parent. The family business pays the bills. We are blessed to be able to provide for our family and 13 staffers. Since the pandemic, Jeff is around a lot more to participate in day-to-day family life. Having an office open six days a week was hard. The nature of the family and the business working from home is really great now.
Do you feel secure working in the industry?
JJ: No. There are few protections and many risks. Security is a serious risk. Violent crimes are not being responded to by local police when they feel overwhelmed.
DSJ: Even when you have nothing, violent criminals assume you’ve got something.
JJ: We also have more promise and opportunity as an industry than almost all other industries in multiple sectors.
DSJ: This is a worker-friendly industry in the sense that we hire a lot of people and conditions are generally good. Businesses could pay more if taxes and local community improvement fee agreements were less onerous.
Do you fear more federal action?
DSJ: We are post-action in our minds. More likely to be called as an expert witness these days.
How do you deal with the PTSD of persecution?
DSJ: I no longer fear the federal government. We are simply not that interesting anymore and we are not involved in anything plant touching. We are just a school! I now work with and for several government agencies, so at this point anything that the FBI is looking at is more likely to be public corruption than our drug dealer friends.
JJ: Drawing the attention of the federal government always made me feel like a more important person, and if I could be more important than the others who didn’t want to take the risk to change the rules and provide protection to everybody around me, who deals with cannabis for medical to adult, I felt it was a duty I needed to do.
DSJ: Jeff and Richard did time on the front line in the War on Drugs. My PTSD had to do with a fear of losing my kids over a zealous person trying to prove points and make an example of us or losing my life over this to someone who disagrees with me. The kids changed the equation for me. I was less concerned before having kids and started the Prop 19 campaign before I was pregnant with Jackson.
What is the single most educational point you feel Oaksterdam can offer to the world?
DSJ: That we can trade cannabis and hemp like any other commodity across the globe. That we can do so in a forward-thinking, ecologically net positive way.
JJ: I think a neat way to weave in what I see in the future is an equity paradigm and lean in to retail everywhere to support safe access for a change. To be able to go down the street where you are right now and go buy cannabis products.
What are your next plans for Oaksterdam? What is “The Dream”?
DSJ: Removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 DEA drug schedule entirely (de-schedule). Legal home grow everywhere.
JJ: Retail everywhere.
Do you have a message for those in the industry? For legacy farmers? New entries?
DSJ: Timing and Team are most important. Take your time and build a strong leadership team. Find good partners and engage with clear contracts. Be tenacious and tireless. I know this is harder than it looks.
JJ: What was yesterday is not tomorrow in the cannabis industry. You have to be ready to innovate and continue to pivot if we’re going to be successful in the future, but we are not nearly in the troubled space as when I first started in the ’90s.
What is your honest projection for industry? Do you believe cannabis will become a globally traded commodity in both hemp and adult use?
JJ: That’s an affirmative. If the U.S. were to remove cannabis from Schedule I, the rest of the world will follow.
DSJ: I agree with Mr. Jones. We recently hosted a federal German delegation that included all six parties in their parliament, and after a thorough discussion on policy and public health and safety with them, I am more heartened than ever that we can not only trade cannabis and hemp like any other commodity across the globe, but that we can do so in a forward-thinking, ecologically, net positive way.
Which aspect of research do you feel is most important to the future of cannabis education?
DSJ: I am so concerned for the climate change weirding and the wars of the future. I’m trying to hurry up and change federal law so we can focus on ecological solutions available to us with better utilization of hemp and cannabis as the largest carbon sink crop on the planet and the products and energy we can make.
JJ: Emerging research around new cannabinoids being found and used in the human body is going to profoundly affect how cannabis is looked at into the future.
Who do you look up to in the world?
JJ: From the past, Carl Sagan and Dr. Tod Mikuriya (a California psychiatrist who died at age 73 in 2007, he publicly advocated for medical marijuana for decades and was an architect of Proposition 215). From the present, Tim Blake (Emerald Cup founder) and other cannabis pioneers who continue to trailblaze ahead for recognizing this plant as a resource and medicine.
DSJ: The legacy and social equity entrepreneurs who are the last to get a fair shake and make it happen anyway. And Mr Jones. He keeps me humble.
Jeff and Dale wish to recognize Richard Lee as the founder who formalized Oaksterdam University in 2007, and they say, “We would not be where we are without his vision and leadership for the first five years.”