Updated: Jan 24
Eddy Lepp is a medical marijuana pioneer and P.O.W. whose courage and compassion have cemented his place in cannabis history.
On the morning of December 6, 2016 (just one month after California passed Proposition 64 legalizing cannabis for adult use), a tired-looking 64-year-old Vietnam veteran in a Rasta-colored beanie emerged from a white van and into the waiting arms of beloved friends outside Colorado’s Florence Correctional Institution where he’d spent the past eight-plus years imprisoned for doing the very same thing that businessmen across the state were about to make millions doing: growing a shit-ton of marijuana. Unlike so many of today’s corporate capitalists, however, he wasn’t motivated by personal gain; rather, he did it at great personal cost in order to help those in need. This is the tale of OG Eddy Lepp.
EDDY'S EARLY DAYS
Born in La Harpe, Illinois in 1952, Charles “Eddy” Lepp was the son of a military man who spent much of his childhood moving around before eventually settling in Reno. In 1968, at the age of 19, he enlisted in the army alongside his brother and was shipped off to Vietnam. It was during basic training that he first started smoking marijuana—a habit he continued during his year in the war. After returning home, he spent the next two decades struggling with addiction, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder—self-medicating with every intoxicant he could get his hands on and engaging in a pattern of self-destructive behavior. But when his father got sick with cancer in the mid-1980s, he decided to clean up his act and began his struggle toward sobriety; the only intoxicant he didn’t give up was marijuana, which he continued to use medicinally, though he didn’t realize it at the time.
“I used marijuana for years to keep from killing myself,” confesses 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.”
As it turned out, that information would come soon enough: through his daughter Chrissy, Lepp ended up meeting Dennis Peron and his life changed forever.
“Back in the '80s I met Dennis and Jack, was very interested in what they were talking about, and got to be friends with them,” he recalls. “After that, I was kinda fucked, because you can’t very well be best friends with Dennis Peron and Jack Herer and not be a crazy cocksucker who’s devoted their life to marijuana.”
Lepp gave cannabis to his ailing father to stimulate his appetite during his cancer treatments—holding joints for his dad to smoke through his tracheotomy tube. After his father’s death in 1988, Lepp checked himself into the National Center for PTSD in Palo Alto, California. It was there, at a veteran’s luncheon, that he met his future wife—a young woman doling out ice cream named Linda Senti. With the help of the Center, his new love Linda, and cannabis, he was finally able to get sober and begin to heal.
“Cannabis was critically important in shaping my recovery and the man that I was going to become,” Lepp attests. “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.”
CALLED TO ACTION
Eddy and Linda fell madly in love, were soon married, and after a series of unsuccessful get-rich-quick schemes eventually settled in Lake County, California. The couple got heavily involved in the cannabis legalization movement and quickly formed friendships with all of the major players of the time: Peron, Brownie Mary, Dr. Tod Mikuriya, and his hero and mentor Jack Herer, with who Lepp grew very close—eventually embarking on a worldwide speaking tour with him.