Thursday, May 11, 2023


 Another Amazing Review in Art Beats LA. Thanks  Kurt Gardner.


Slamdance Review: ‘American Pot Story: Oaksterdam’

The story of passionate activists seeking to legalize marijuana all around the country is told in this absorbing documentary.

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in half the country, it’s strange to think that — not so long ago — pot was demonized, along with its proponents.

Making its world premiere at the 2023 Slamdance Film Festival last month, American Pot Story: Oaksterdam is the heretofore untold story of such proponents — a group of dedicated people who worked tirelessly to make marijuana available to everyone. The documentary chronicles the efforts of this group that fought to get Prop 19 — the measure to legalize cannabis — on the ballot.

Filmmakers Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus spent 10 years following these people, and the result is an absorbing and inspiring documentary.

Though medical marijuana was permitted in much of the country, cannabis activists wanted the laws to be relaxed further, so that it could be used recreationally. One of those people was Richard Lee, a Texas native who believed: “You break the law to change the law.”

Richard Lee, co-proponent of Prop 19, at the Election Day Press Conference (photo courtesy of the fimmakers).

A fall from a scaffolding had left Lee a paraplegic, and he found that marijuana offered him more relief than traditional medications. He was inspired to promote his pro-cannabis stance with the largest, loudest megaphone possible.

So, in 2007, he founded Oaksterdam, the world’s first college with a cannabis curriculum, in Oakland, California. He is joined by Dale Sky Jones, a woman whose life was at a crossroads before she’d come to to the university, and she finally found a place that ignited her activist passion. She also found a husband, Jeff Jones, who’d brought her to Oaksterdam.

The controversial college gets a lot of coverage from both left- and right-wing press, curious about its mission, but Lee has a loftier goal in mind — to get the passage of Prop 19 on the ballot. In 2010, Lee personally funded the campaign to the tune of $1.4 million.

Dale Sky Jones, Chancellor of Oaksterdam University, when she was Prop 19 Spokesperson (photo courtesy of the filmmakers).

After much canvassing to promote the initiative with the help of volunteers, the team was thunderstruck when they lost. Even worse, the DEA seized the opportunity to raid the university and Lee’s other properties. Though he was never charged, the dispirited Lee resigned and Jones took over as chancellor.

From this point forward, it becomes Jones’ story. Whether pregnant or toting a toddler, she crisscrosses the country, espousing the benefits of legalization.

American Pot Story: Oaksterdam is populated by key players in the pot wars, from current California governor Gavin Newsom, Representative Barbara Lee, Mikki Norris, Chris Conrad and Neill Franklin to Alice Huffman, David Downs, Evan Nison, Ann Lee and Salwah Ibrahim. It’s a comprehensive lineup.

Regarding the film’s lengthy production schedule, Markus told CelebStoner: “When we started in 2010 I thought ‘We’ll film a revolution and will have a new film in the can within a year.’ The revolution took much longer and is not yet finished.”

American Pot Story: Oaksterdam was honored with the Audience Award at Slamdance. To be notified of upcoming screenings, visit the American Pot Story site.


 Thanks Benjamin Franz for the amazing review on Film Threat of our new film: American Pot Story:

Film Threat Review: American Pot Story :Oaksterdam

Marijuana is a wondrous herb. It’s a pain killer and mood enhancer, making life possible for people suffering from various ailments. Of course, once the prohibition of alcohol was lifted, Harry Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics needed a new drug to vilify and prohibit. They settled on marijuana and started a ninety-year reign of terror against U.S. citizens.

In the shadow of DEA enforcement then, it’s remarkable that Richard Lee sought to found a college to train people how to run small medical marijuana businesses. That institution, Oaksterdam, is one-of-a-kind, and I am so very grateful I get to review the marvelous historical retrospective of Oaksterdam and its political crusade to legalize recreational marijuana, American Pot Story: Oaksterdam. This brave work, written by Dan Katzir and directed by Katzir and Ravit Markus, is a testament to the enduring spirit of liberty that will repel the evil plots of the Federal Government every time.

After relocating, in 2007, from Texas to Oakland, CA, Lee decided to help small business marijuana distributors by training entrepreneurs how to develop dispensaries and grow medical marijuana for profit. By 2008, Dale Sky Jones had relocated to Oakland and needed something to do. So she enrolled in Oaksterdam and now serves as its chancellor. Before that, she completed her training and became the executive in charge of the day-to-day running of the educational program.

“…Lee sought to found a college to train people how to run small medical marijuana businesses.”

Lee and Jones are the central personalities at the heart of the first-ever effort to legalize recreational marijuana: 2010’s failed Prop 19. Although the legislation failed, it was a watershed moment. It led to the 2012 DEA-powered raid of Oaksterdam and eventually to the retirement of Richard Lee. Jones grabbed the baton and had to figure out a way forward for the university.

American Pot Story: Oaksterdam shows how brilliant a lady Jones is. She is a vivacious interviewee and following her as she canvasses California in support of the eventually victorious Prop 64 is fascinating. Richard Lee is a quiet, more taciturn individual. Bound to a wheelchair thanks to an accident in his youth, his half smile is charming. Lee walks us through the mentality of running a school you know the Federal government could shut down at any time. The 2010 mural promoting marijuana legalization that used to sit on the outer wall of Oaksterdam was his brainchild and a wondrous monument. When it eventually got painted over, this fueled the fight to legalize weed and force the Federal Government to respect states’ rights.

A cleanly shot, beautifully edited film, this documentary relates the definitive story of marijuana legalization on the state level. Will the Federal Government ever get out of the way? Only time will tell. For now, it’s a damn good thing that people like Lee and Jones are wandering this Earth, determined to leave it a little better than they found it. Katzir and Markus deserve award consideration for this magnificent work.

This is a must-watch for every American. Sure, our empire is powerful and scary, but it can be opposed in a non-violent way and forced to do the right thing. American Pot Story: Oaksterdam brilliantly captures a moment where two people led, inspired, and educated hundreds, if not thousands, of others on the way to regaining some freedom in America.


 Our Film won an Audience award at Slamdance!!! WOWA WEEWA!



 Another Amazing Review in Art Beats LA. Thanks  Kurt Gardner. ART BEATS LA REVIEW OF AMERICAN POT STORY: Slamdance Review: ‘American Pot St...