Tuesday, January 31, 2023

California Rastafarian Church Seeks Marijuana Exemption

A California Rastafarian church in is challenging a city ordinance banning smoking cannabis in public, claiming a religious exemption. Church leaders believe the herb is a holy sacrament and will allow their congregation to toke as part of the Eucharist.

According to a story in the San Jose Mercury News:

Although it sells marijuana products including edibles and smoking pipes in a small backroom, co-director Donny Lords insists that Coachella is not a pot dispensary as defined by the city of San Jose.

The Mercury News report says that churchgoers wishing to be part of the Cannabis Church must provide a photo ID proving they are 18 and pay a nominal registration fee. Qualified parishioners are then ushered into the chapel where they are allowed to partake during the weekly service.

According to Rev. David Dick, cannabis also has a long history of use as an entheogen. As Dick explains:

Entheogen literally means ‘generating the divine within’ or ‘makes God come into being.’ It is a plant whose psychoactive properties help put us in a more receptive state where we are open to the divine within us. Cannabis has been one of man’s earliest entheogens, and we at Coachella Valley Church offers cannabis as a holy sacrament, practiced by many spiritual traditions for thousands of years.

While the church’s flock may be pleased, some neighbors of the church are not. As the Mercury News reports:

Dave Henschel described Coachella as a phony operation similar to one that existed there a few years earlier.

“This is a farce, just as the church is a farce,” Henschel wrote in an email. “This dispensary is hiding under a church use in order to sell marijuana, that is all they are concerned about.”

The church’s YouTube page has been fairly active with more than 20 videos posted in the past six months. Below is a welcoming video:



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