Photo of The Federal Correctional Institution in Florence, Colorado (FCI Florence)
Oh, the joy and heartbreak of being here in Colorado.
It is somewhat ironic that the Feds would send me here, to the only state that has made sales of marijuana completely legal, not only for its own citizens but also those just passing through.
I am serving a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for growing marijuana at low or no cost to whoever needed it in Northern California. I grew 30,000 plants out in the open to make sure anyone who needed medical marijuana got it, regardless of whether they could afford it. I am also a Rastafarian minister and using cannabis is part of our spiritual practice, and should be protected by the law. The judge in my case even stated she didn’t think I belonged in prison, but that she had to sentence me to the mandatory minimum.
I have been confused about this for a long time. On the one hand, the Feds hold many patents on marijuana. They allow the program in Mississippi to grow and test medical marijuana. In Gonzalez v. Oregon, the Supreme Court stated clearly that in accepted state medical practices the Feds have no jurisdiction to interfere in a doctor’s decisions on how to treat their patients.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) clearly state the Feds have no right to interfere in our religious practices. The Supreme Court upheld this in the UDV (ayahuasca) decision. There are religious groups that drink poison, play with poisonous snakes and abuse children. There are those with priests who molest children. There are religions that refuse to allow doctors to attend their sick even if it means they may die. My religion did not.
I, and the many members of the church, believe that helping sick and dying people is a worthy thing. We were and still are shocked that the government could only see what we were doing as a crime. From the beginning I have accepted full responsibility for what we did. I have prayed often hoping that they would come to their senses and stop the lies about the sacred plant, which I believe is a gift from God.
The history of the cannabis plant goes back many thousand years. Cannabis has always been used for spiritual and medical purposes in all civilizations. In the early 60s, Jewish scholars translated ancient text and proved beyond any doubt that the sacred plant is in fact one of the main ingredients in the Holy Anointing Oil used in the Bible to anoint Christ himself.
With all the evidence supporting the many virtues of this plant, not only as a spiritual guide, but also as a medicine, it is hard to believe I am here for growing it. When it was made illegal, it was in 40 percent of all the medicines sold in America.
If inventors could use hemp freely it would be found in over 25,000 items we use every day.
When we look at this War on Drugs, which is a war against the people of this great country, we must look at the bigger picture and that is simply the numbers involved with other issues that we actually really face. We lose 88,000 people a year to alcohol and 443,000 to cigarettes as well as another 100,000 to prescription drugs. Marijuana has never killed anyone. We as a nation have spent billions arresting people who are addicted to illegal drugs, but people are still of course, addicted to drugs.
We know as a nation that prohibition does not work. It serves to only allow the black market to flourish, for gangsters and cartels who care not one bit about anything but profit. Sadly, that is the same incentive for the corporations that run our nation. The richer and more powerful these groups become, the less respect they show for our laws.
The wars in Mexico, just south of where I lived at FCI La Tuna, are crossing our borders more and more each day. These wars are about money, power and control. Death is the most common punishment given to those who cross the gang.
We must at some point begin to listen to those who would fight the problem of drug use in a much different way. It will only be through the end of prohibition that we as a nation can begin to rebuild our families, cities, lives and this great nation.
So, it is with a heavy heart full of hope for our future that I applaud those with the courage to change the laws here in Colorado, and those who fought to change them in Washington. Standing up to a government that refuses to hear the voice of “We The People” is never an easy task.
Have We The People become fed up enough to insist that those we have elected serve and protect us? That they honor our Constitution? Our rights as human beings?
Respect all. Hurt None. Love One Another.
Charles Edward “Eddy” Lepp 90157-011
FCI Florence Federal Prison Camp
PO Box 5000
Florence, CO 81226-5000