WRITTEN BY CHRIS THOMPSON
The fog was so dense we could barely see the brilliantly lit Rembrandt Tower except for a glow in the distance as we trooped out of my flat in Amsterdam. Walking across the canal and up the eerily quiet street to Amstel Station, we planned to take the Metro to the Cannabis Cup.
I snapped some digital shots of the street signage either glowing or blurred through banks of white cloud. Needless to say, it was incredibly difficult to breathe this stuff, especially after sampling about twenty varieties of cannabis in readiness for tonight’s activities. It was November of 2003, and I had been living in the Dam for seven years on and off, just another ex-pat enjoying the scene, and the incredible hospitality of the stalwart Dutch. Our little crowd of Americans braved the Metro and observed a few heroin addicts cooking up their doses in the end row seats of the Metro cars. The stench is always nauseating, a cross between ammonia and bleach – which I am sure is quite deadly.
Needless to say, I was overjoyed to barrel out of the Metro car and lurch up the escalator into the relatively fresh, cold, densely foggy air of other-worldly ancient Amsterdam. This year the High Times sponsored Cannabis Cup was being held at the Arena Hotel. A location I am sure the management of High Times rues to this day as one of their worst. How can one choose a NON-smoking venue for the world’s largest smoker’s
event? Upon arrival, I had to go thru the usual degradation of beg-
ging for entry as a member of the press. Of course, there was no pre-
made Press Pass waiting for me as promised by staff. That would
be too efficient for stoners! But having gone down this road seven times before, I was prepared to find whichever stoned-out, blurry-eyed cosmic-partying High Times staff member who was going to let me in. However, I got in almost magically in an instant. The world-famous Cannabis Poet,
Lee Bridges had commandeered three chairs and was displaying his self-published works just inside the front door.
Business was brisk for Lee that night, and he had more than a special glow from all the energy swirling around us. I congratulated him upon his good fortune and great location and was then swept up in the crowd into the main display hall at the Arena. Weaving and wending my way across the hall, I found the Seeds Direct/Gypsy Nirvana/International Cannagraphic booth nestled between Bubbleman’s and some fellow who looked like a Leprechaun,
with a bunch of scantily clad and luridly painted ladies lounging around him on various couches and bunk beds. There was a line waiting to meet with this character named Eddy Lepp, and we entertained a number of the waiting faithful with free bong hits at our booth. Later on, I made my way to the Red Light District with our group of friends, to the Cannabis College. Lorna, the lovely directress, had invited us to come and listen to Eddy speak to us and show some slides of his garden in California, where cannabis for medical use has been legal since 1996.
It was great to be informed about the law in California, and to hear of the many efforts folks like he had made to get the law changed on our
behalf. The slides he showed us that evening made their way into our hands after the show. Eddy gave us permission to print them in the first ever issue of the International Cannagraphic Magazine. As Editor of the magazine, I was grateful for the wonderful content we had for our Charter Issue. Eddy and his wife Linda expressed many times that we should come and visit their place in Northern California. After the Cannabis Cup that year, the ensuing long dark and cold winter months at the high northern latitudes of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom were spent working on the International Cannagraphic Charter Issue, enclosed DVD movie, and the new ICMag.com website. In February of 2004, we delivered the goods with a print magazine/DVD and live website with a quickly grow-
ing membership. Overgrow.com was at the time the only real grower’s website, and when it shut down ICMag.com was there to offer a home for growers on the Internet. The next challenge was upon us, the ICMag/Seeds
Direct/Gypsy Nirvana Grow Cup, April 20, 2004 to be held in Amsterdam. Working frantically we assembled a team and put on a mind-blowing show that no one who attended will ever forget.
In May of 2004, I travelled to the United States to promote the Cannagraphic and get some material for the next issue. Visiting Eddy Lepp’s Medicinal Gardens in Lake County, California, was a highlight, and I observed his medical patient volunteers preparing some 35,000 seedlings for plant-
ing in an open field on his farm. I wrote a story for the second issue
of the International Cannagraphic and filmed enough video for the
DVD production. During the visit, we discussed the legality of what he was doing and Eddy showed me the letter of the law that supposedly protected his rights as a medical patient to grow and use cannabis. He also showed me a letter he had sent to a number of law enforcement organizations such as the DEA and the local sheriff claiming it was his right to grow, that he was going to grow, and to please let him know if they had any objections. It seems nobody ever answered any of these letters, so Eddy Lepp felt he was completely within his rights to grow cannabis as medicine. Especially for folks who had medical recommendations from their doctors. It seemed the plan was this, to charge around $500 for each “plot” upon which one plant was grown in the name of the patient. You could buy as many “plots” as you could afford, and I observed many poor folks getting theirs for free. Eddy is very generous and shared his medicine and sacrament freely. At one of his meetings on the farm, he made us aware of his passionate feelings that around his place, patients came first, and you were here to take care of them, not yourself. I have to say that in one week, I saw literally hundreds of people sign up for their plots. He had perhaps fifty people living on the
property in caravans, tents and sleeping in the fields to protect the crop. Every single person there was a medical patient with a doctor’s recommendation, as well as a member of his church, the Multi-Denominational Ministry of Cannabis and Rastafari. Just a few weeks after returning to Amsterdam to produce the next issue I heard from California that the Feds had raided Eddy’s place and removed 32,500 plants from his open field on the side of Highway 20. Eddy Lepp was arrested a second time that year, and eventually charged with conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance, Marijuana, in excess of 1,000 plants. The long struggle had begun for Eddy, and he spent at least 90 days in jail at that time just waiting for bail to be granted.
Our next annual issue was produced and distributed in January 2005. This issue included my visit to Eddy Lepp’s Medicinal Gardens in California, Gypsy’s trip to Jamaica with Bubbleman and Wally Duck and the IC420 Cup. After the publication of Issue Two, we decided to take a break and let the website community grow. This was a wise decision as the world’s evil forces at large brought down the largest cannabis site at that time, Overgrow.com. ICMag.com has picked up and carried the torch for truth and freedom for cannabis lovers and users everywhere and has become the biggest cannabis site on the Internet to date. Out in California, Eddy decided to defend himself against the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency charges using a religious defence. Aligning himself with an activist from Arkansas, and a formerly twice-convicted
Rastafarian, he followed their advice in mounting challenge after challenge to the Feds. This tactic brought Eddy an incredible amount of time, which he desperately needed. Perhaps as a result of the stress of these events, or maybe it was just a genetic turn of fate, but Linda Senti, Eddy Lepp’s lovely wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the midst of these happenings.
Linda was the glue that held Eddy together, his mentor, his inspiration, and the class act at the magician’s side as he performed his various miracles. Meanwhile, in the courtroom, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel was either bemused by the protestations of innocence from the defence, or outraged at the shenanigans of the prosecution. At one point the judge openly accused Prosecutor Dave Hall of not doing his job, took direct
charge of the questioning at hand, and made mincemeat of the defense’s argument of the moment. That was just one of many zany moments I witnessed as the government suppressed evidence, warped the truth, and eventually convinced the jury to convict Eddy Lepp on two charges at the end of a whirlwind two day trial in August 2008.
The jury took only four hours to reach their verdict. But meanwhile, in November of 2007, Linda Senti passed away, never seeing Eddy freed from the charges, never seeing his name restored to honor as the cannabis activist he truly was and is. As of this writing, we still
await his judgment from the bench. Originally scheduled for early December of 2008, we are now waiting until late Spring of 2009 to hear what Judge Patel has in store for Eddy. Understandably, there is a campaign to get believers to write the judge praying for leniency in sentencing.