Cannabis – medicine and politics: an interview wit’ Dr. Aseem Sappal

by Minister of Information JR Valrey

Dr. Aseem Sappal is the director of operations at Oaksterdam University, the Oakland university that teaches you all you need to know about the medicinal and outlawed plant cannabis, aka marijuana. In over a third of the states that make up the nation, in one form or another, cannabis ingestion has been legalized. What is the activism all about, and what lies in the near future for people who see this plant as medicine? We talk to Dr. Assem Sappal to find out …

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us why and how you got involved in cannabis activism? How did you get hooked up with Oaksterdam?

Aseem-Sappal, Cannabis – medicine and politics: an interview wit’ Dr. Aseem Sappal, Culture Currents
Dr. Aseem Sappal

Dr. Aseem: I often remind my students about the difference between being educated and opinionated. Oaksterdam educates – that’s how my involvement began. There are numerous myths and misconceptions regarding medical cannabis. I’m an advocate of education. People associate the word marijuana with smoking. Much of the general public is still unaware of the fact that there are many other methods of ingesting cannabis.

Cannabis can be administered as a topical application, a capsule or a vapor such as you’d inhale Albuterol for asthma. If there were a medical necessity for it to enter the blood stream faster, you could apply a glycerol-based sublingual tincture under the tongue.

We are now learning about cannabinoids and their scientifically proven, non-psychoactive medicinal effects. It’s important that when people offer their take, that it’s no longer just an opinion, rather an educated process of thought. Before doubting the medical value of cannabis, I ask you to do the research. Pass judgment on the facts, on a truth that has already reached 18 states that have passed medical marijuana laws, including our nation’s capital.

I’ve witnessed the suffering and pain of many patients, alleviated by the administration of cannabis. I’ve met with cancer patients who are now cancer survivors. They attribute their survival to cannabis. That’s why I got involved. I have even gone as far as to find the best deals for patients on bongs and water pipes. I have encountered many elderly cancer patients that have no idea where to go for these things.

I’ve been studying the medicinal aspects of cannabis for well over 15 years. As a doctor, I was naturally drawn to its medical potential. Oaksterdam University, being the nation’s first and premier cannabis college, was one of few, if not the only institution, that provides people with comprehensive knowledge regarding all aspects of the plant as well as the industry. Like the other 10,000-20,000 or so who have attended, I also sought answers to my questions.

Dr. Aseem Sappal is the director of operations at Oaksterdam University, the Oakland university that teaches you all you need to know about the medicinal and outlawed plant cannabis, aka marijuana.

There’s a lot of fiction regarding cannabis and its medical attributes. I not only wanted to clear that up for myself, but I want to educate people about it as well.

M.O.I. JR: What is the history of Oaksterdam University? What does it teach?

Dr. Aseem: Oaksterdam University was founded in November 2007 by Richard Lee. With its diverse curriculum and focus on educating the public, the school quickly gained the attention of local, national and even international media. As demand for classes increased exponentially, Oaksterdam University quickly outgrew its humble beginnings, and had moved to four locations, one of which included a sprawling 30,000 square foot campus that featured multiple classrooms, two auditoriums, a grow lab and a theater.

In 2008, the school expanded by opening a satellite school in Los Angeles and eventually opened campuses in Michigan and Sebastopol. Today, Oaksterdam University operates exclusively out of Oakland, at 1734 Telegraph, Oakland, Calif. 94612.

After Richard retired, Dale Sky Jones took over and continues marching on as executive chancellor.

OU offers a wide variety of cannabis competencies. The university offers semester programs as well as two- and four-day seminars. You can earn your certification in any of these programs.

Coming up soon are the Basic and Advanced Seminars starting April 13 through the 15th.The Basic Seminar is suited best for out of town or local students who need to complete the curriculum quickly or cannot meet regularly during the week. The Basic Seminar takes place over a Saturday and Sunday, totaling over 13 hours of instruction.

OU offers a wide variety of cannabis competencies. The university offers semester programs as well as two- and four-day seminars. You can earn your certification in any of these programs.

Upon completion of the Basic Seminar, students are eligible to attend the advanced level classes. The Advanced Seminar takes place Monday and Tuesday. You can learn everything from growing to cooking with cannabis, science, making concentrates and extracts, politics, how to start various cannabusinesses and the law! OU also offers programs specific to indoor and outdoor growing. You can enroll online at or call student services at (510) 251-1544.

M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about the medical applications of cannabis?

Dr. Aseem: Cannabis, which is said to have been described in early Chinese medical reference as early as 2737 B.C. and reached Europe at least as early as A.D. 500, has been known to man as medicine well before our time.

Cannabis has many medical applications as well as many methods of ingestion. We have to remember that acupuncture was commonly looked upon as folklore, but now, many years later, it is accepted as medical science. The same is true for cannabis. Research is limited in the United States. Internationally, however, research is far more prevalent. Every time we look closer we learn more about its powerful anti-cancerous ability. Unlike many prescription medications, cannabis not only addresses the symptoms but in fact addresses the core condition.

The application of cannabis as a medicine has been shown to reduce neuropathic pain, reduce muscle spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis and has anti-tumor effects. The human body possesses an endocannabinoid system that has receptors that bind with cannabinoids which are introduced into our system via cannabis.

These cannabinoids act as neuromodulators, regulating appetite, pain, mood and memory. There is far more to learn but science is moving in the right direction. The rescheduling of cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance will help the future of cannabinoid-based medicine and the method in which we approach the endocannabinoid gateway.

M.O.I. JR: What is the legal status of cannabis in Washington and Colorado? When do you think Cali will follow suit?

Dr. Aseem: Colorado and Washington are among 18 states with medical marijuana laws, but they became the first in the nation to approve the use for recreational purposes. A similar measure in Oregon failed. It’s still early and there is still much to determine.

2014 and 2016 would be the next time Cali will have the opportunity to legalize. So, that would be the first chance of being able to follow suit. The people have spoken – 18 states are pro cannabis; the others will follow suit. So long as there aren’t many federal roadblocks in Colorado and Washington, there’s a fair chance that the voters will have the opportunity to pass the proposition.

M.O.I. JR: What is the difference between legalization and de-criminalization?

Dr. Aseem: Decriminalization states that a certain crime, such as the possession of cannabis, would no longer constitute a criminal charge. Although it would still be considered against the law, it would probably warrant a fine. Legalization would involve the removal of all legal consequences.

M.O.I. JR: How has Obama been on cannabis issues?

Dr. Aseem: President Obama has a lot on his plate. Cannabis is a small piece of it. I believe he supports the use of medical cannabis. He said to Barbara Walters that prosecuting adult pot users in states that have legalized the drug won’t be a top priority for his administration. His exact words were, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” and that “it would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.” There’s a reason that states have been given the right to govern themselves. Cannabis in my opinion shouldn’t be on the menu. It was voted in by the people.

M.O.I. JR: What can people do to advocate for more just cannabis policies?

Dr. Aseem: As I always tell our students, if people don’t speak, who will listen? You have to get out there. There’s a difference between an activist and an active activist. Educate people on the facts. Attend meetings, city council meetings. The city of Concord is meeting to discuss banning outdoor horticulture. It’s important to attend these meetings and advocate for a just cause.

We have assembly bills that address employment discrimination against medical marijuana patients. We have to advocate for these bills, raise awareness and educate. Measures are continuing to pass. To advocates and those opposed, it’s a clear signal that there is a change in the way voters think about drugs and drug policy in the United States.

M.O.I. JR: How do people stay in touch with Oaksterdam?

Dr. Aseem: Oaksterdam offers great networking opportunities. You meet great people, many of whom will become future industry entrepreneurs. Attending electives, industry events such as our April 2 Oaksterdam On the Green event at Subpar in Alameda – where there will be miniature golf and cannabis tasting – alumni opportunities and social media are ways in which you can stay in touch. You can also register for our newsletter on our website to receive updates and the latest news.

Soon we will be launching a new website! JomSocial is a social networking tool that will give our students the opportunity to create their own unique interactive profiles and communities.

Students will be able to create, join and participate in all types of groups and connect with other users through friend and buddy systems. Private messaging, uploading and sharing their own photos will all be part of the fun!

The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every other Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at