Colorado Cannabis Activist 'Wayward Bill' Passes at 70

William "Wayward Bill" Chengelis: 1951-2021

Cannabis activist William "Wayward Bill" Chengelis died in a Colorado hospital on August 7. 

The former chair person of the U.S. Marijuana Party had been hospitalized for several weeks and was receiving best wishes from locals and people around the country via social media. Tributes are now pouring in on Facebook and Twitter where he was active. 

Chengalis was born on Feb. 21, 1951. He attended Youngstown State University in Ohio but never graduated. Instead he became a full-time political activist, joining the White Panthers in Michigan and connecting with the Yippies in New York. An Army veteran, he suffered from PTSD and bi-polar disorder and had a crippled left hand.

Chengalis became chair of the U.S. Marijuana Party in 2011. The party has run candidates in various states.

Wayward Bill: "I believe there's a true need for a political party whose only agenda is the legalization of cannabis and the end to the drug war against a plant that can save the planet."

Chengalis and the U.S. Marijuana Party contributed to the legalization effort in Colorado in 2012. He worked with Sensible Colorado, SAFER, ACLU and Colorado NORML and also regularly attended and spoke at the 4th of July Smoke-In in Washington, DC and Seattle Hempfest. In 2013, he was arrested at the Capitol in Washington for allegedly handing out edibles.

RELATED: Legalization Activist Steve Fox Passes at 53

"What happened too me is all in a day's work," he said at the time. "I always know the risks. I'm also willing to take them. Afterall no one is free until we are all free...

“It just isn’t about pot, it’s about community," he added. "Why focus on one thing when you can look at the bigger picture?”

Wayward Bill's epitaph: "After all is done he intended to work on something simpler like world peace or maybe feeding the hungry. He regretted having only one life and so little time. He embraced all that is free."


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.