On the morning of August 18 2004, DEA agents raided Eddy’s Medicinal Gardens and Multi-Denominational Chapel of Cannabis and Rastafari in Upper Lake, Calif. They arrested Charles Eddy Lepp, who had been allowing patients to cultivate cannabis for medical purposes on his property; the 24,784 plants confiscated on his 20 acres were clearly visible from State High-way 20. In 1997, he was raided, arrested, charged and acquitted by local and state authorities for doing the same thing. But then the Feds stepped in: Lepp was convicted of federal drug felonies in 2007, and sentenced in 2009 to a 10-year mandatory- minimum prison bid.
Born on May 14, 1952 in La Harpe, Ill., Lepp was raised in Reno, Nev. and served in the U.S. Army’s military intelligence unit in Vietnam from 1969–1972, where he discovered cannabis. Lepp’s epiphany on the medical use of marijuana came in 1987, when his father used it to battle cancer, and then rose in prominence as a marijuana activist in the early 1990s. 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. During his time in prison, Senti passed away, and eight states, including California, legalized the adult use of cannabis. On Dec. 9, Lepp was released from prison into a halfway house in San Francisco, where he began the probationary portion of his sentence. Freedom Leaf spoke with Lepp by phone in January.