Richard Lee, the Oakland medical pot entrepreneur who spent $1.3 million to qualify this November’s initiative to make recreational pot use legal in California, once lived for thundering his Harley-Davidson motorcycle down Texas highways, says the Sacramento Bee. Lee, 47, was paralyzed in a fall 20 years ago. Now he has emerged as the unlikely protagonist in a marijuana legalization push that is changing California’s cultural and political landscape.
He surges forward in a wheelchair, pumping hard in fingerless gloves through an Oakland business district dubbed “Oaksterdam.” He is credited with reviving the area with a medical pot network born from California’s 1996 initiative legalizing medical marijuana use. Combined, he said, his Oaksterdam University marijuana trade school, a medical marijuana dispensary, coffee shops and other businesses generate $5 million a year. Some hail him as a landmark figure fighting to decriminalize marijuana and end the drug war. Some criticize him as a political calculator whose pot initiative doesn’t go nearly far enough. Others say he is an opportunist taking a movement – still fighting for legitimacy – further than it is prepared to go.