A vanguard activist in the US cannabis legalization movement, William “Wayward Bill” Chengelis, died August 7, 2021 at the age of 70.
Chengelis helped legalize cannabis in Colorado in 2012 and frequently traveled to other states, including Georgia, to encourage and advise activists.
Sharon Ravert, founder of Peachtree NORML, recalled “Wayward Bill” riding a Greyhound bus from Colorado to Georgia for statewide and local initiatives in support of the plant he believed in.
“If you can legally smoke a joint where you live, you can thank Wayward Bill,” said Sharon Ravert, founder of Peachtree NORML. Though cannabis remains illegal in Georgia, Chengelis “supported Peachtree NORML from its inception, and was a speaker at our very first Southern Cannabis Reform Conference in Atlanta. He was an OG with a purpose and he will be missed by many.”
Ravert met Chengelis in 2012, the same year he became chair of the U.S. Marijuana party. He said: “I believe there’s a true need for a political party whose only agenda is the legalization of cannabis and the end to the drug war against a plant that can save the planet.”
The party ran single-issue candidates in Nebraska, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington state.
That “saving the planet” isn’t an overstatement. During Chengalis’s lifetime, he saw hemp plants improve human well-being and preserve the environment through hemp fibers, hempcrete building materials, plastics, and low side-effect pharmaceuticals. His ideas about decriminalizing a plant less dangerous than alcohol have come into majority acceptance in every US state.
Wayward Bill Chengelis was a US Army Veteran and used cannabis to treat his medical conditions. He resigned as Chair of the U.S. Marijuana Party earlier this year after being diagnosed with cancer. His last official duty was representing the U.S. Marijuana Party at the 51st Annual Smoke-in at the White House, High Noon July 4th, 2021, Lafayette Square Park.