Iconic cannabis advocate Charles Edward “Eddy” Lepp sadly passed away on August 16th, 2021. Lepp’s wife Sandra Castaneda posted on social media, “This morning at 2:00 AM my husband Charles Edward Lepp aka OG Eddy Lepp passed away in his sleep.”
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, which is where he first encountered cannabis. In 1987 when his father used marijuana to battle cancer, Lepp had his own “medical-marijuana epiphany” then went on to rise in prominence as a cannabis activist in the early ’90s. He and his late wife, Linda Senti, gathered signatures for California’s Proposition 215. Soon after its passage in 1996, Lepp formed his Medicinal Gardens medical cannabis farm that eventually earned him his first arrest.
Lepp owned and operated Eddy’s Medicinal Gardens and Multi-Denominational Chapel of Cannabis and Rastafari. Valued at $130 million, it was considered to be one of the largest cannabis operations of its time, serving up to 1,000 medical cannabis patients.
After a DEA raid in 2009, Lepp stood trial on charges of cannabis possession with “intent to distribute, conspiracy and establishing a marijuana-manufacturing operation,” according to High Times. Lepp pleaded not guilty, stating that not only was he legally growing under state law but that he was also a practicing Rastafarian.
“I’m not doing anything illegal. If the federal government has a problem with California law, then they should be having the state of California in court, not me,” Lepp said at the time. At 56 years old, Lepp received a 10-year sentence and was released early in 2016. Lepp was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 by High Times.
On June 6, 2021, Lepp posted an update on Instagram. “Hi everybody, it’s been a while since I said anything so I thought I’d shoot out a little update. I have cancer of the bone now. And it’s pretty rampant from my chest to my toes. And we’re gonna have to change therapies to try to win this battle. But uh, I got at least a couple, three more months and maybe a couple years, so keep them cards and letters coming, keep buying that art…I love you all and thank you so much for giving me a reason to live.”
In addition to his passion as a cannabis pioneer and activist, Lepp was also an author, poet, and artist. His creations featured colorful depictions of cannabis plants in full bloom, large-scale joints, and other cannabis-related elements, many incorporating layers of colorful glitter.