The cannabis community lost another legend this week as Charles Edward “OG Eddy” Lepp succumbed to cancer after a long battle on August 16 at 69 years old. He was a cannabis activist, grower, author, poet, and artist. His death comes less than a month after the loss of legendary hash-maker Frenchy Cannoli.
“It’s a very sad day for our Cannabis Community,” posted Island Vybz to Instagram. “We lost a great man, a veteran of the cannabis grow community and innovator of some of the most well recognized strains in the world, also a P.O.W. Prisoner of Weed…Rest in Weed Eddy Lepp.”
“Eddy Lepp is a hero to all of us who believe in the power and potential of the plant,” said Veronica Guevara, director of equity affairs at Flower to the People. “Along with Dennis Peron and Jack Herer, Eddy Lepp’s history as an advocate should be remembered and celebrated.”
“I met him a couple of times through Amy (Fisher) and my favorite memory was dabbing him out on his birthday,” Guevara continued. “You know you brought the fire to the party when OG Eddy Lepp coughs for about a minute and says ‘Wow!'”
“Everyone’s friend and teacher, a man of compassion and love that worked to free hemp and cannabis for the world to heal in every way,” said Amy Fisher, cannabis activist and curator of the Travelling Hemp Museum.
“@og_eddylepp stood up for cannabis freedom when few others were willing to take the risk; we owe him gratitude & respect,” posted medicinal cannabis pioneer Steve DeAngelo to Lepp’s Instagram page on his last birthday.
Born in La Harpe, Illinois in 1952, Lepp was the son of a military man who spent much of his childhood moving around before eventually settling in Reno.
He discovered cannabis during his Army tour in Vietnam from 1968-’72. Upon his return, he struggled with PTSD, addiction, and depression for two decades.
“I used marijuana for years to keep from killing myself,” confessed Lepp. “I was using cannabis to treat myself, but in the beginning, I didn’t realize that I was medicating because we didn’t have the information.”
In the late 1980s, his activism was ignited by his father’s use of cannabis to fight cancer. Lepp finally checked himself into treatment to defeat his demons. There, he met his first wife Linda Senti, who became an avid advocate as well, dying from cancer in 2007.
“Cannabis was critically important in shaping my recovery and the man that I was going to become,” Lepp attested. “As time passed, I was able to see not only how it healed me physically, but how it allowed me to heal myself mentally and get back in touch with the creator and renew my association with God as I understood him. It allowed me to accept realities and see the truth in who I was and what I’d done, to deal with them in such a way that I grew from it rather than hating and condemning myself.”
Lepp eventually met San Francisco Buyer’s Club founder and Proposition 215 co-author Dennis Peron—an encounter that would change everything for Lepp. He became heavily involved in the cannabis legalization movement, and became closely associated with Jack Herer and Brownie Mary, among many other key anti-prohibition activists.
“I first met Eddy at Dennis Peron’s cannabis dispensary on Market Street in 1992,” said Wayne Justmann, Lepp’s friend and an advisor to medical cannabis dispensaries. “Eddy was a primary cultivator that supplied cannabis during those years. When I opened my dispensary in 1999, a year after Dennis was forced to close. Eddy again was someone I relied on to provide good quality cannabis for the patients.”
Lepp was raided and arrested in 1997 for growing 132 plants. Lepp cited Prop 215, and became the first person acquitted of cannabis charges under the law he helped pass. After that victory, he started planting more cannabis gardens, and founded Eddy’s Medicinal Gardens and Multi-Denominational Chapel of Cannabis and Rastafari, where patients could pay to have their medicine grown for them—up to six plants, for $500 per plant.
“We will not take money for marijuana,” Lepp once commented to High Times. “Every penny of that $500 goes specifically to caring for the plant.”
On August 18, 2004 DEA agents raided Lepp’s vast farm—valued at $130 million and rumored to be supplying up to 1,000 patients with their medicine—in a multi-day operation.
Lepp fought his charges hard in court, pointing out he was following state law, and his own religious beliefs of Rastafarian. Nevertheless, he was found guilty and received a 10-year prison sentence in September 2009 at the age of 56. He ended up spending eight-and-a-half years in prison before being released in 2016.
His release was a major relief to the cannabis community who supported him throughout his incarceration, as evidenced in a video made at that time by Free Eddy Lepp by Ponyboy, Mr Shadow, FCM Click & Gato, as well as a clip featuring footage from Lepp’s prison release posted by cannabis activist Uncle Stoner, a seed breeder and the founder of the Squash Off roisin competition.
Lepp didn’t return to massive grows after his release, instead focusing on creating glittering marijuana art, his friends, and the cannabis community. In 2017, High Times awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award for operating one of the “greatest marijuana gardens of all time.”
Those looking to remember the legend would do well to check out the Facebook page devoted to Lepp’s art, and the 13 Youtube episodes of his 2020 podcast OG Eddy Lepp Show, in which he talks about his experiences and the modern world of cannabis.
Uncle Stoner remembers when he was just getting to know Lepp, “They accidentally booked us into the same hotel room. And as I am talking to him he tells me, ‘Love is love, I love everybody.’ Because of him feeling that way he was truly able to embrace all that approached him. His farm sprung a generation of growers and genetics.”
“Eddy is more than a legend to me,” adds Justmann. “We were friends. And to those whose lives he touched, I am sure we all are better for it.”
It is important to remember the people who came before us and created the historic foundation for the cannabis legalization movement. Eddie Lepp fought for not only his own right to grow and consume weed legally, but for all of us. Every time we walk into a dispensary or order weed delivered to our doors, we are able to do so because he was one of the first ones to blaze a trail that still extends to the horizon.
RIP OG Eddy Lepp, may your spirit always be high.