Like many Americans, Charles Eddy Lepp, who passed away from cancer this morning in California at age 69, did serious jail time for cannabis.
On August 18, 2004, DEA agents raided Eddy’s Medicinal Gardens and Multi-Denominational Chapel of Cannabis and Rastafari in Upper Lake, California. Lepp had been allowing patients to cultivate cannabis for medical purposes on his property; many of the 24,784 plants confiscated on the 20 acres were clearly visible from State Highway 20. Lepp was convicted of federal drug felonies in 2007 and sentenced in 2009 to a 10-year mandatory-minimum. He was released in 2016.
Lepp was raided, arrested, charged and acquitted by local and state authorities for doing the same thing in 1997.
"I hope to go back to doing what I’ve been doing for 20 years mostly, which is being an advocate for the full legalization of hemp as an industrial product," Lepp told Freedom Leaf after his release. "Jack Herer and I seldom talked about the uses of cannabis - what we talked about mostly was industrial hemp and why it wasn’t being used for the purposes that God intended it.
"Today, the most-used commodity in products is sea kelp. It’s used in 1,200 to 1,500 products, everything from shoe polish to toothpaste. It’s been estimated that if they had the same freedom to experiment with hemp like they do with sea kelp, that hemp would be in 5,000 to 10,000 products within two years, and in over 25,000 within five. Hemp is truly God’s gift to his children, not just for spiritual use and medicinal use, but as an industrial product, second to none. Marijuana should be treated the same as any other agricultural product."
According to Freedom Leaf, Lepp was "born on May 14, 1952 in La Harpe, Illinois and raised in Reno, Nevada. He served in the U.S. Army’s military intelligence unit in Vietnam from 1969–1972, where he discovered cannabis.
"Lepp’s medical-marijuana epiphany came in 1987 when his father used it to battle cancer. Lepp rose in prominence as a cannabis activist in the early '90s. He and his late wife, Linda Senti, gathered signatures for California’s Proposition 215, and soon after its passage in 1996, Lepp formed the Medicinal Gardens that earned him his first arrest.
Eddy Lepp: "Hemp is truly God’s gift to his children. Marijuana should be treated the same as any other agricultural product."
"During his time in prison, Senti passed away and eight states, including California, legalized the adult use of cannabis. On Dec. 9, 2017, Lepp was released from prison into a halfway house in San Francisco, where he began the probationary portion of his sentence."
Unfortunately, Lepp was unable to resume his life as a cannabis grower. After his release, he married Heidi Grossman, Together, they founded the Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church of Cannabis Love. The marriage and the church didn't last long. The couple divorced, the church disbanded and then Lepp married Sandra Castaneda. Lepp developed a form of cancer over the last few years and lived longer than was expected. Tributes are being made at his OG Eddy Lepp Facebook page.
Here's a tweet from Danny Danko:
Sad to hear we’ve lost another cannabis pioneer and friend OG Eddy Lepp RIP. We had some good times all over the world and you will be missed by so many. Sending love to all of his friends, family and loved ones. Legends never die… pic.twitter.com/soxh2ipoUY— DannyDanko (@DannyDanko) August 16, 2021
Lepp was among the last of the activists who paid the price with jail time during cannabis prohibtion. Industry newbies may not know the tales of Eddy Lepp and others who preceded them when the government was quick to lock people up for pot and throw away the key.