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Honoring the life of longtime Yippie activist and cannabis advocate "Wayward Bill" Chengelis.

Wayward Bill at the White House. Photo by
Wayward Bill at the Yippie July 4th Smoke-In at the White House. []

On August 7, the Colorado cannabis community lost one of its favorite sons when activist William Alvin Chengelis—better known as “Wayward Bill”—died of cancer at the age of 70.

Wayward Bill was a cannabis crusader his entire adult life. In 1969, at the age of 18, he joined the White Panther Party in support of the campaign to “Free John Sinclair.” He was studying constitutional law and journalism at Youngstown State University before being drafted into the Vietnam War. After being honorably discharged in 1974, Chengelis joined the Youth International Party (Yippies) and began attending their annual July 4th Smoke-In protests at the White House almost religiously. He also became a devoted Deadhead and moved to Hayward, California, where he gained the nickname “Hayward Bill” (he changed it to “Wayward” Bill after Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995).

Bill was also a member of many other activist groups, including the ACLU, S.A.F.E.R., Sensible Colorado, NORML, and the US Marijuana Party, which he was elected chairman of in 2011—a title which he held proudly until he was forced to retire from the position in May of this year due to illness. Bill was on a bus en route to the 51st annual Yippie Smoke-In in D.C. this past July when that illness finally caught up with him and he was forced to turn back. Sadly, in the weeks that followed, his health declined rapidly.

Wayward Bill - 2016 CBA Lifetime Achievement Award winner
Wayward Bill - 2016 CBA Lifetime Achievement Award winner

Upon his passing, the VA hospital honored Bill with a full military sendoff.

Wayward Bill death
Bill surrounded by loving friends before his military hospital procession.

He’s also been honored twice by the Cannabis Business Awards (of which Bill was a huge supporter): first in 2016 with their coveted Lifetime Achievement Award, then again on April 20 of last year when they (in partnership with World of Cannabis) named him one of their esteemed 420 Icons.

Wayward Bill - 420 Icons award winner

Fare thee well, Wayward Bill...may your spirit blaze eternal.

Carry on, my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

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