OAKLAND (AP) ― You know you're in a different kind of college when a teaching assistant sets five marijuana plants down in the middle of a lab and no one blinks a bloodshot eye.
Welcome to Oaksterdam University, a new trade school where higher education takes on a whole new meaning. The school prepares people for jobs in California's thriving medical marijuana industry.
For $200 and the cost of two required textbooks, students learn how to cultivate and cook with cannabis, study which strains of pot are best for certain ailments, and are instructed in the legalities of a business that is against the law in the eyes of the federal government. "My basic idea is to try to professionalize the industry and have it taken seriously as a real industry, just like beer and distilling hard alcohol," said Richard Lee, 45, an activist and pot-dispensary owner who founded the school in a downtown storefront last fall.
So far, 60 students have completed the two-day weekend course, which is sold out through May. At the end of the class, students are given a take-home test, with the highest scorer -- make that "top scorer" -- earning the title of class valedictorian. Before getting to Horticulture 101, the hands-on highlight of Oaksterdam U, the 20 budding botanists, entrepreneurs and political activists at a recent weekend session sat politely through two law lectures and a visiting professor's history talk.
In the lab, Lee measured plant food into a plastic garbage can and explained how, with common sense, upgraded electrical outlets, a fan and an air filter, students can grow pot at home for fun, health, public service -- or profit. Lee explained to his students how to prune and harvest plants, handing the clipping shears to a woman who wasn't sure how close to the stalk to cut without damaging it. He offered his thoughts on which commercial nutrient preparations are best, as well as the advantages of hydroponics, or soil-free gardening.
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