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Eddy Lepp found out when the DEA raided his farm in 2003 and cut down hundreds of nearly mature cannabis plants, netting the government over 3500 pounds of ganja in the process. The plants were so massive that agents had to use Lepp's own chainsaw to get through them. The farm went down in history as the largest medical grow operation up to that time.
Lepp doesn't do anything small and his garden is no exception. Where most people brag about growing dozens of plants, Eddy grows tens of thousands. He even spent the last 8 years in prison for his actions. But after getting prosecuted for growing 32,524 plants, he had another 11,000 only five months later.
Located within sight of Highway 20 in Lake County, the size of Lepp's gardens are incredible by any standard. High Times took notice and listed him on their “Greatest Marijuana Gardens of All Time” for his mass grow op in Lake County, California. Not bad for a Vietnam veteran looking to provide safe and affordable medicine to those in need.
Federal Agents (and everyone else who has seen the his work) were blown away by the determination of this California cannabis activist. In addition to having a green thumb to make any Central Perk troll jealous, Lepp is a leader of the federally recognized Sugarleaf Rasta Church. But Eddie's wife Heidi is the wind beneath the churches wings and officially runs the organization.
The Sugarleaf Rasta Church is special for a couple reasons. The first reason is that it provides a massive amount of cannabis for practitioners to use during regular sessions. Within the church, members partake of cannabis as part of their sacrament. Much of the sacrament is grown and prepared by church members and distributed to those in the most need.
In fact, cannabis in all its forms is considered holy by the church and used in religious ceremonies ranging from weekly worship to personal revelation. The plant is seen as a way to connect with the divine in ways that sobriety doesn't allow. Lepp helped found and run the government recognized religion before spending almost a decade behind bars for providing free medicine to sick people.
One of the reasons Lepp was given the sentence he had was his insistence that he didn't grow marijuana and instead only allowed other patients to do so on his land. The government maintained that Lepp was a driving force behind the operation and worked to thwart or bypass the 1996 law that allowed medical patients to grow cannabis.
He denied any wrongdoing and claimed "I've broken no laws of the state in which I reside." despite the prosecution claiming he was illegally involved in neighboring grow operations. When offered a deal if he would admit to growing over 1,000 plants he refused. When asked why he wouldn't change his plea, Lepp said "I would rather do ten years and be able to look myself in the eyes than never be able to look myself in the eyes again,".
California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer commented on Lepp's sentencing by saying "This case sadly illustrates the senselessness of federal marijuana laws. The last thing this country needs is more medical marijuana prisoners. Hopefully, we can change the law and get Eddy out of jail before he completes his sentence."
After 8 1/2 years in prison, Lepp was released in 2016. Although he still has 5 years of drug-tested probation, he is excited to get back into activism. With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana and amazing expansion to the medical program over the last few years, there has been some major changes to the industry during his hiatus.
But there is still a ton left to do. And Lepp plans to be there for the whole thing. He told Herb " Just because I went to federal prison doesn’t mean I got off the horse… It is still a long, long ride, and I’ll be there when it’s done."
With so much of his life revolving around cannabis, it makes sense that he would be recognized and honored by much the community. Lepp is one of the growing number of activists with his own strain named after him. Officialy name OG Eddy Lepp, the heavy indica took 2nd place at the 2013 Cannabis Cup. The tropical flavor and talkative nature of the strain are great reflections of Lepp himself.