According to DEA spokesman Richard Meyer, the sprawling 20-acre farm near Upper Lake, California, contained 20,000 high-grade marijuana plants estimated at a value of $80 million. Meyer arrived at this estimate by assuming that each plant weighed one pound worth $4,000, multiplied by the number of plants they stole from Eddy and his patients.
According to Lepp, the DEA was actually very far off in its estimation. Instead of 20,000 plants, there were actually 32,524, and at $4,000 a pound it adds up to $130 million. But Lepp’s plants weren’t for sale; he was running a non-profit med-pot co-op, fully legal under California state law.
Past med-pot busts
Eddy Lepp and his medical marijuana gardens are no strangers to controversy.
In 1996, California state law enforcement arrested Lepp for cultivation of 131 marijuana plants. He became the first person to be arrested, tried and acquitted in the state of California under Proposition 215, the medical marijuana law passed by state referendum.
Six years later, Lepp’s med-pot garden was again raided by the feds. Lepp wasn’t arrested, federal police just came and took all of his 350 plants. Eddy Lepp and his wife, Linda, are now suing the federal government for the return of those plants.
Legal under state law
In an interview with Cannabis Culture, Lepp explained that his massive med-pot farm is legal under state law, and that it was anything but a secret. “Every year for the past five years, before I have planted, I mailed a letter to the Lake County Board of Supervisors, the local Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney, and the County Council. And this year we also sent letters to the Attorney General and our new Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. I let them all know who we are and what we are doing.”
Lepp says that his letters outlined exactly what was going on, and even gave the address of his pot farm. “I gave them all 30 days to respond and nobody did,” says Lepp. “What they are telling me was that under the law, it is legal in the state of California. You don’t even have to tell us you’re doing it.”
Lepp figures federal police should leave him alone too. “My contention is this,” says Lepp. “If the US has a problem with California medical marijuana law, then why don’t they take the state of California to court and leave the citizens of the Republic alone. They have no jurisdiction over us and need to quit taking it. It is not theirs.”
Lepp’s lawsuit to get back his plants from the 2002 raid is also an effort to show that the federal government has no jurisdiction interfering with a non-profit med-pot grow that is legal under state law. “We will prove that Title 40 USC 255 states clearly that if they do not hold title, they don’t have jurisdiction and none can be presumed, even when invited in by the state.”
When the DEA came to his massive marijuana plantation, Lepp was surrounded by patients at the farm who were enjoying their morning coffee, “The DEA is here,” he told them. “Nobody panic, nobody react, just respond to what they tell you.” Then he walked down to answer the door.
Lepp was met by Lake County Sheriff officer David Garzolli and another officer. Lepp claims the pair had performed an illegal, unwarranted search just two days before. Lepp says that he spoke with them briefly, and then he had a gun shoved into his eye and was forcefully thrown to the ground. His face was also slapped in an attempt to remove the lit cigarette from his mouth.
Lepp says that neither of the officers properly identified themselves until 20 minutes after everyone was handcuffed and on the floor. Then Lepp claims he was told, “See this fucking badge? This is all the fucking proof you need!”
A trail of buds
After Lepp had been arrested and taken to jail, I followed the police in their giant trucks, overflowing with the beautiful plants they had uprooted.
The police hadn’t bothered to close the tailgates of their trucks, and none of the plants were tied down in any way. I saw many huge buds and whole plants spilling out of the trucks onto Highway 20.
The marijuana trail continued through more than three towns and stretched for miles around Clear Lake (California’s largest natural freshwater lake). People were stopping in the middle of the highway and literally fighting over the massive plants.
Eyewitnesses later estimated that between 200 to 300 pounds of buds had been spilled by police on their way to the dump.
After being released, Lepp told Cannabis Culture how the feds had said to him that if he had been growing those plants up in the mountains they never would have messed with him. Lepp said he was outraged. “After hearing this, I asked them, ‘you mean to tell me I got raided because I did this out in the open, because where I live it’s legal for me to do this, and because I did it above board so that everybody in the world can see that what I’m doing is purely medicinal?’ They replied by telling me, ‘But Eddy, you embarrassed us.'”
“I can’t understand why it is OK for an out of control government to do what they did to me!” complained Lepp. “How can they come onto private property, rip everyone out of bed, harass and detain them and steal their legal possessions just because I’ve embarrassed them! I mean, at what point does it become worse than Nazi Germany? At what point do they do this because I’ve embarrassed them? Is it because of what I am, because I grow medicine? What’s the embarrassment?”
? T0 help Eddy’s legal fund, donations can be sent to: Eddy’s Medicinal Gardens, PO Box 382, Upper Lake, CA 95485; tel 707-275-8879