It’s the second emotional day for the founders of the Sugarleaf Rastafarian Network of cannabis churches — Wednesday a raid at their Canabless location in Calaveras County came right on the heels of Tuesday’s shooting of two deputies on the site of their Yuba Trees church in Oregon House.
Founder Heidi Lepp tried to talk about what’s happened and just cried.
While many think the officers were wounded repeatedly by someone trying to protect the church’s growing field of marijuana — a crop these believers say is their sacrament — Heidi and Eddy Lepp say just the opposite.
According to them, they called law enforcement for help when the on-site reverend informed them that a man who’d volunteered to help tend the pot fields got violent, pulled out a gun and started pulling up plants.
That man has now been identified as 33-year-old Mark Anthony Sanchez.
For Eddy Lepp, the shootout between Sanchez, which left him dead, and the deputies is a sad example of how his Supreme Court-recognized religion and its sacrament aren’t taken seriously.
He says if his faith was respected like that of a Lutheran or a Baptist, there would be no controversy at all.
“They do tend to laugh it off if ever a cannabis church calls. And obviously they kind of laughed this one off. Two officers went up there knowing the gentleman had a gun. They weren’t wearing protective vests. They weren’t wearing protective clothing. I’m not putting blame on the officers themselves, but on the organization in general, but to dismiss anybody calling in is just wrong,” he said.
Eddy Lepp was released from jail just last December for charges related to a massive pot grow.
“We’re not asking for special favors. We’re not asking that we get treated better than anybody else or be given special exceptions. What we’re just asking is that our religion is respected just the same as all the other religions.”