As head honcho of Oakland, California-based Oaksterdam University (OU), a business and horticulture college that educates patients, professionals, growers, elected officials and regulators on every aspect of the cannabis industry, Dale Sky Jones is in charge of a 150-member faculty and eight academic departments. Jones took over as President & CEO in 2012, carrying on the legacy of progressive cannabis education that began when OU was founded in 2007, educating more than 25,000 students in the process.
Nobody knew when I left my corporate job what I was going to do. I took the slow roll into this industry, I didn’t even talk about it for the first year. I told no one that I managed a doctors’ practice. I didn’t even want to talk about the fact that the doctors I worked for did cannabis recommendations, that’s how in the closet I was. I was keeping it quiet because I hadn’t figured out how to talk about it. But now, for me, it’s a moral imperative. I get it. Now I know how to talk about it. That is what I think I inspire in other people, I give them a way to talk about it. They are able to give voice to my words in the way that they own them. So I get where other people are coming from and I can authentically meet them where they are because I have been there — I was that gal.
(Oaksterdam founder) Richard Lee kind of did this on a whim, almost as a joke at first. We were all talking about training but nobody was stepping up to do training in the form of a school. So he floats this ad in a few papers that basically says I will teach you how to grow pot, but first you have to learn politics and history and show up to city council meetings. It was a deal that was struck that was basically this: I will teach you what you want to know but what I need is political support to move this issue forward and for you to become a freedom fighter.
We just finished training 41 agents and auditors from the Board of Equalization. We are training the trainers on how to audit the cannabis industry through a two-day intensive program. To be contracted with the largest tax collection agency in the nation was exciting. We have also trained the Florida Department of Health, the Maryland Department of Health and the city of Oakland. I just hosted Uruguay’s Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA) and that was a pretty big deal.
Who better to help than the veterans who have lost their reason for living, they came back after being a part of something bigger than themselves to nothing. Losing purpose is one of the biggest reasons we are losing veterans to suicide. I saw a symbiotic opportunity for us to help each other and ourselves. We started giving free classes to veterans who couldn’t afford to pay. We gave them purpose again. This past Veterans Day, we gave away 30 free seats for veterans as part of the Freedom Fighter Scholarship fund.
Yes, we are opening a campus there in spring 2017. They are working furiously on it and I know we are going to be attached to a museum. It’s on Highland, off the I-15 in the old Goodyear Factory. We wanted to be here because Las Vegas is a very forward moving jurisdiction and they know how to manage their vices and sins. So while it’s not easy to do business in Las Vegas, it is reasonable to do business in Vegas.
You have to advocate down. Don’t forget the patients that got us here. This is not for fun. This is their life. We have to make sure we are developing programs that are going to help patients and poor people, and make these communities better than when we found them because you must have a good neighbor policy. You leave it better than you found it. That’s how you get support of your neighborhood, the church, the soccer moms, the school, your community. That’s the type of stuff that changes the world and that’s what I expect of my students and I tell them so.