Church of Cannabis Sends Prayers With Every Exhale
Easter Sunday has come and gone, taking the rush of churchgoers in their Sunday bests with it. But for one very particular church in Denver, the biggest holiday of the year is still two days away, on April 20. And on that day, the country’s first International Church of Cannabis will swing open its doors to a new kind of worshiper, offering a different take on “higher power.”
The International Church of Cannabis is a first-of-its-kind organization. That’s because co-founders Steve Berke and Lee Molloy have made creative use of Colorado’s legal weed laws to make their church an official nonprofit religious organization. But one that happens to be dedicated to the sacrament of cannabis.
Members call themselves “Elevationists.” And Berke and Molloy describe the church as a community for cannabis consumers who view the plant as a path to self-improvement. Even in weed-legal Colorado, the International Church of Cannabis is raising some controversy.
The “Elevationist” Creed
The front page of the Elevationists’ website lays out the community’s mission statement. It’s not about claiming or following some kind of absolute authority or divine truth. The Church of Cannabis is non-denominational and inclusive of all faiths and cultural backgrounds.
What it is devoted to, however, is the ritual of cannabis. Elevationists describe their “life stance” as a view that “an individual’s spiritual journey, and search for meaning, is one of self-discovery that can accelerate with ritual cannabis use.”
With that goal in mind, founders Berke and Molloy aim to offer a safe home for of-age adults “looking to create the best version of themselves” through the use of cannabis. For this Church of Cannabis, the plant is sacred.
Local press outlets have given the church’s founders a lot of air time to explain their cause and reassure a wary public.
For them, the International Church of Cannabis isn’t about replacing other religions. Rather, they view the sacrament of cannabis as more of a “supplement” to the spiritual journey of other faiths.
Ultimately, the church is about togetherness and community. And that’s something that Molloy, who grew up in a Pentecostal religion, knows all about.
A Higher Power
The International Church of Cannabis is preparing for its 420 opening by sharing panoramic images of the redesigned interior online.
The Church of Cannabis is in an actual church structure, with a history almost as old as Colorado itself. The building was built in 1904 and has housed many denominations. Today, it resides in Denver’s Washington Park, an upscale and wealthy neighborhood.
Inside, Spanish muralist Okunda San Miguel has totally re-imagined the space. He repainted the vaulted ceilings, walls, and sanctuary with vivid, psychedelic designs. The new look has transformed the church into a mind-blowing place for worshipers to partake in the sacrament of weed.
Real Church or Social Club?
Both residents and city officials are taking a closer look at the legal technicalities behind the Church of Cannabis. Weed is legal for adult recreational use in Colorado. But the state still has strict laws about consuming pot openly in public.
And in fact, that is the main concern. Residents and officials worry that the founders are just trying to get around restrictions on “cannabis clubs” by cloaking it in religion. More specifically, they feel the Church of Cannabis is exploiting a legal loophole that allows social weed use in permitted businesses.
But for now, Berke and Molloy are operating in uncharted legal waters. No one has tried to found a Church of Cannabis before. At this point, Denver seems to be in a “wait-and-see” mode, according to The Cannabist.
The members of Elevation Ministries, however, deny that they’re trying to bend the laws. They insist that the church is about community and the spiritual sacrament of cannabis. No one will be selling weed at the church. Furthermore, they deny claims that their International Church of Cannabis is just a nightclub or smoking lounge.
With the debut just two days away, residents and potential worshipers alike are curiously awaiting the 420 opening of the International Church of Cannabis.