US Marijuana on Religious Grounds? A Cannabis Church Opens in Denver

07:00  21 april  2017
07:00  21 april  2017 Source:   The New York Times

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The International Church of Cannabis will open its doors in Denver on April 20, a day marijuana enthusiasts Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis , a religion that also embraces marijuana as a holy sacrament, came into being under the state’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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For the International Church of Cannabis in Denver, there were three reasons to celebrate on Thursday.

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Denver ’s West Wash Park neighborhood might just become ground zero for “Elevationism,” a newly coined religion for all who use marijuana to get Calvary Apostolic Church , is now the International Church of Cannabis . The church ’s grand re- opening will take place this Thursday, April 20 (naturally).

(ANTIMEDIA) A former Lutheran church in Denver , Colorado, is about to become a marijuana sanctuary called the International Church of Cannabis . It will open on the de facto stoner holiday, April 20.

First, it was opening day. The church, a more than century-old building recently adorned with brightly colored paintings by the artists Kenny Scharf and Okuda San Miguel, welcomed the public early in the afternoon, at which time no cannabis consumption was allowed inside.

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“It seemed to be a nice steady flow of people,” said Lee Molloy, a founder of the church and a member, who estimated that a couple of hundred people had come by.

Second, it was April 20, an unofficial holiday of sorts for marijuana users. There have been disagreements as to why the number 420 has taken on significance in the cannabis community, but Steve Berke, the church’s media relations director, did not want to worry about that.

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A former Lutheran church in Denver , Colorado, is about to become a marijuana sanctuary called the International Church of Cannabis . It will open on the de facto stoner holiday, April 20. The Elevationists, as they call themselves

It’s come to this: Pot smokers in Denver have formed their own church “ religion ,” all based on the “high” of the marijuana lifestyle. The International Church of Cannabis is set to open April 20.

“It’s a number that everybody’s adopted, and we’re adopting it too,” he said. The church closed its doors to the public after 2 p.m. local time, leaving only invited visitors, who were allowed to light up for a private 4:20 ceremony.

And third: A challenge to the church’s legality, in the form of an amendment proposed in the state’s House of Representatives, was shut down almost as quickly as it arose on Thursday morning.

All told, it was a good day for the church’s membership, which ballooned to more than 200 people from around 50 this week after increased media attention.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and has been fine-tuning its regulations ever since. It is still illegal to smoke in Denver’s public spaces. And some decisions on legal usage are still left up to cities, creating a patchwork of laws that legislators are still working to consolidate.

Mr. Berke and Mr. Molloy are founding members of Elevation Ministries, the religious nonprofit behind the church. “We thought we could do something different, something unique,” Mr. Berke said, explaining that the church adheres to no specific dogma.

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A former Lutheran church in Denver , Colorado, is about to become a marijuana sanctuary called the International Church of Cannabis . It will open on the de facto stoner holiday, April 20. The Elevationists, as they call themselves

“We’re building a community of volunteers, and the common thread is that they use cannabis to positively influence their lives, and they use cannabis for spiritual purposes,” he said.

Not everyone was happy to hear about the new church. Dan Pabon, a Democrat in the state’s House of Representatives, had a bill on marijuana regulation making its way through the legislature. On Thursday morning, he tried to add an amendment banning cannabis consumption in churches.

It was, he said, a move inspired by the International Church of Cannabis.

Elevation Ministries “is basically leveraging and capitalizing on the usage laws that we have in Colorado,” he said. “I think it offends both religious beliefs everywhere, as well as the voters’ intent on allowing legalization of marijuana in Colorado.”

But some of Mr. Pabon’s fellow representatives did not buy it.

“I thought that this was engaging in a nanny state,” said Joe Salazar, a Democrat. “I completely disagree with saying that a person can worship in one particular way or the other, and that that’s going to be regulated by the state.”

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A church for marijuana enthusiasts announced its official grand opening at 400 S., Logan Street, Denver , Colorado Dubbed as the International Church of Cannabis or the “ICC,” the Therefore, those of all religious backgrounds are welcome to visit their church and take part in the activities.

By: Carey Wedler/Anti Media A former Lutheran church in Denver , Colorado, is about to become a marijuana sanctuary called the International Church of Cannabis . It will open on the de facto stoner holiday, April 20.

In the end, the amendment was not formally introduced. Still, Mr. Pabon hopes the Senate will consider bringing it up again in the coming weeks.

Mr. Berke saw Mr. Pabon’s amendment as a clear example of religious persecution. “And for those who accuse us of creating a church as an excuse to smoke weed, we’re in Denver,” Mr. Berke said. “We can smoke anywhere. I think he should be embarrassed.”

Mr. Salazar acknowledged the unpredictable nature of cannabis legislation. “This is fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, blazing-the-trail kind of policy-making,” he said. “And Colorado is a leader on it.”

Mr. Molloy said that while church members have done — and will do — their due diligence abiding by existing laws and meeting with city officials, it would be a constant challenge to stay abreast of changing regulations. “We’re jumping through all the hoops the state and city require us to jump through,” he said.

But he added that he was proud to see the church open its doors. “It’s a world-class piece of art,” he said of the renovated building. “It’s a masterpiece. And I think the city of Denver is lucky to have it.”

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