The International Church of Cannabis in Denver Opens
This spiritual community congregated for the first time on 4.20.17.
It didn’t quite go as planned for Steve Berke, the leader of Elevation Ministries that opened the doors to the International Church of Cannabis on 4/20. The event was to be public for 21+, but due to threats of being thrown in jail by Denver city officials, it had to be changed to a private event.
“We made clear that just like other events we’ve seen pop up around town, activities involving consumption must be restricted, private events,” Dan Rowland, spokesman for the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses commented.
Despite this small setback, the newfound church was still able to carry out its first 3:00pm service on 4/20. Instead of opening its doors freely to the community, it sent private invitations to those that had signed up for membership online, as well as allowed the public to sign up for an invitation the day of. Every individual had to show their ID, register at the door, and receive a wristband in order to enter sanctuary. The event was monitored closely, but ran smoothly and successfully as attendees discussed spirituality.
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The First Service
Before it began, participants were already lighting up their bud and chatting. At 4:20pm, everyone was asked to put their phones away, light up a joint, and to take a full minute to remain silent and reflect; have a moment embracing one’s spirituality and beliefs. After the minute was over, all were encouraged to introduce and converse with someone around them they didn’t know.
Many topics linking cannabis to spirituality were discussed, and a radio station aired live from the sanctuary. Smoking was allowed in both the sanctuary and a small outdoor patio, though restricted in all other areas of the church.
Membership on the Rise
Berke noted that membership to the International Church of Cannabis has risen by 500% in the past week alone, reaching 300 members. While most members attending the church are locals, there were a few that trekked from various parts of the globe.
Felipe Crespo, a Florida resident, made the pilgrimage to the International Church of Cannabis specifically for opening day. He commented, “I think it’s amazing! The art is incredible, and we’re having a blast. It’s been great to be able to sit here and smoke and not worry about cops or anything like that. We can just relax.”
A couple from London even attended opening day. Charles “Edgy” Edgerton told the Cannabist, “I don’t think marijuana is spiritual – I know it is. The plant returns us to our shamanistic roots, before spirituality was stolen by religion.” Meanwhile, his female comrade rolled a joint as he spoke with reporters.
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Church Targeted Opening Day
The same day the International Church of Cannabis opened its doors, state Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, attempted to pass a bill on cannabis use that would have barred its use in religious institutions but allowed it in clubs. The Colorado House rejected it before it could be put up to vote, noting it would be an unconstitutional constraint on religion.
Berke stated the proposed amendment targeted the church, being “religious persecution… It’s unconstitutional. Whoever proposed this should be embarrassed.”