What are Cannabis Churches and Why Do They Exist?
Published on 6/4/22
In Colorado, California, and other states across the country, cannabis churches have been founded with increasing frequency. If your first reaction is to ask, "What is a cannabis church," you're not alone. You might be asking similar questions like, "Is there a cannabis religion?" So, before you start to ask a million other questions, let's look at what cannabis churches are and why they're a thing.
What Is a Cannabis Church?
Yes, weed churches are real - but what are they exactly? Very simply, they are churches that reserve the right to sell & permit the use of cannabis during service as a sacrament. The underlying belief is that cannabis can be used as a spiritual agent and can and should be used during religious services to heighten spirituality.
More cannabis churches seem to be popping up a lot recently, but a handful across the United States have made quite the name for themselves as foundational in the new movement. The most iconic is likely the International Church of Cannabis, based in Denver, Colorado. It opened its doors in 2017 and holds services that are predominantly guided meditations and laser light experiences. Members of the church call themselves "Elevationists," which highlights the underlying purpose of the church, to "use the sacred flower to reveal the best version of self, discover a creative voice and enrich their community with the fruits of that creativity." The church claims no authoritarian structure or divine law.
There are cannabis churches that do provide more structure and consider themselves, more openly, a true religion. The First Church of Cannabis, based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, is one such church. Founded in 2015, the First Church of Cannabis officially follows the Cannaterian religion, which was formalized at the same time. The church follows 12 commandments, called "The Deity Dozen," which outlines the lifestyle goals of members of the church and notes that cannabis is "the Healing Plant," also considered the official sacrament of the religion.
Another major cannabis church is the First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason, founded in Lansing, Michigan, in 2016. Their religious doctrine is built upon the medicinal aspects of cannabis. It uses recent scientific findings of the endocannabinoid system to claim marijuana is a sacred plant meant to bring humans closer to the understanding that we are all one. There are many other cannabis churches throughout the United States. Of course, you may be wondering, why would you want to join a cannabis church in the first place?
Why Join a Cannabis Church?
We aren't saying that you should join a cannabis church - maybe it's not your thing - but there are reasons why it might be a good fit for some people. Many people who have or used to frequent traditional churches do so for the community. Church provides common ground to build a solid support group and build new, long-lasting relationships. A church of weed offers the same thing - a community that is founded around a common interest in both cannabis and spirituality. You'll find like-minded cannabis enthusiasts that are willing to experience new things.
Additionally, there's an argument that there are spiritual things to do when high that would benefit from being in a dedicated space of personal worship. Meditation, reflection, prayer - introspective communion and marijuana together make sense to a lot of people. Putting yourself in a space where that is encouraged, where others are experiencing the same thing. And, of course, the apparent reason why you might consider joining a cannabis church is to experience new places and new people to smoke weed with. Why not, right?
Cannabis Church and the Law
Cannabis churches are legal, and the use of marijuana within the church itself is legal so long as you are at least 21 years old, have proof of identification, and are an official member of the church. That's how the organizations get away with it. In states where public consumption of cannabis is only allowed in specific cannabis lounges or not legal at all, being a "member" of the religion allows the use of cannabis indoors when only members are in attendance. There have been battles in court between states and these cannabis churches, like Denver's International Church of Cannabis vs. Denver County, but nothing has yet successfully ruled these institutions illegal. One of the reasons is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which stipulates by federal law that the government cannot intercede with a person's ability to exercise their right to practice their religion.
While it may be legal, there's also a lot of speculation and kickback regarding the motivation behind cannabis churches. Opponents to the movement say that cannabis churches are just a way to run unlicensed dispensaries and get around the heavy taxation that currently undermines so many licensed dispensaries and other canna-businesses. Churches cannot legally sell marijuana - there is no church strain available yet - but church founders believe that this will be allowed eventually as legalization continues to spread across the United States.
Do you or someone you know belong to a cannabis church? Let us know what you think about cannabis churches and what your experiences have been when you've rolled up that church cannabis. Comment below!