Five Churches that use Cannabis as a Sacrament
Consumers are welcomed to worship at one of these churches.
It has been written in the Bible that, “To every beast of the earth, and to every foul of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, [God has] given every green herb for meat.” However, not many mainline churches that use this text as scripture extend cannabis as a sacrament for their patrons. And while certain churches, notably in the Philippines, have spoken out against the War on Drugs and how certain states have prosecuted it, most draw the line on consumption even in strictly devotional settings.
That hasn’t stopped various churches from popping up around the country, seeking to protect those who ascribe religious significance to their usage. Often, they’re written off by skeptical state regulators and law enforcement as excuses to sell and consume cannabis. This has not stopped several churches from establishing themselves in the United States and practicing their faith. Following are just a few that embrace the Holy Smoke.
The International Church of Cannabis:
Based in Denver, CO out of a 100-year old former Apostolic Church, the International Church of Cannabis begins every service with the recital of a meditation and the lighting of a candle, from which parishioners can light their joints. The overall faith, known as “Elevationism,” is non-denominational and non-dogmatic; any faith that uses cannabis can attend its services. In fact, the church’s founder Steve Berke told Atlas Obscura that attendees don’t even have to believe in God, necessarily. However, cannabis can only be consumed in private ceremonies, where people must pre-register before attending, and unlike many cannabis churches, the ICOC doesn’t sell it. However, the church does conduct wedding services and host the occasional guided meditation and laser light show for regulars and tourists.
Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church:
Incorporated in Jamaica in 1976, the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church was perhaps the first cannabis church to make a major media splash when members were caught transporting cannabis to their sister church in Florida. In 1979, members of the Church invited Dan Rather to report on their services for 60 Minutes, and they’ve been active in the fight to use cannabis as a sacrament for their church ever since, most recently in the ongoing case between church member Carl Olsen and the Iowa Department of Public Health. Merging Rastafarianism with the philosophies of Marcus Garvey, the church says of cannabis, “Herb (marijuana) is a Godly creation from the beginning of the world. It is known as the weed of wisdom, angel's food, the tree of life and even the ‘Wicked Old Ganja Tree.’ Its purpose in creation is as a fiery sacrifice to be offered to our Redeemer during obligations.”
The First Church of Cannabis:
Founded in 2015 in Indianapolis, IN by “Grand Poo-Bah” Bill Levin, this church made headlines when it applied for tax-exempt status from IRS and got it. While it may have faded from the headlines since opening its doors in 2016, Levin still holds services every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., and broadcasts them on the church’s Facebook page. In addition, the Church also offers a volunteer service as well as bingo games. The church’s primary precepts are listed in “The Deity Dozen”; most of them would appear familiar to most Christians, aside from a restriction on Internet trolling. Last but not least is their paean to cannabis: “Cannabis, ‘the Healing Plant,’ is our sacrament. It brings us closer to ourselves and others. It is our fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression. We embrace it with our whole heart and spirit, individually and as a group.”
Formed in the ‘30s in the Brazilian rain forest, Santo Daime is best known for its consumption of the psychedelic beverage ayahuasca. However, some sects also consume cannabis, which the faithful have renamed “Santa Maria,” during their services. While Santo Daime chapters are found around the world, cannabis practices are confined to Brazil, where cannabis is still illegal.
Sacramental Life & Natural Healing Churches:
Not surprisingly, California has hosted many cannabis churches. In 2016, it also gave birth to Sacramental Life & Natural Healing Churches, which could be considered something of a cannabis faith superspreader. For not only does its co-founder Matthew Pappas represent several cannabis churches as a lawyer, but it also provides a four-week “minister education program,” after which graduating seminarians can start their own churches. Similar to the International Church of Cannabis, the Churches’ foundational “twelve determinations” keeps their doors open to a wide variety of spiritual beliefs under their umbrella, stating, “Our sole prerequisite for membership is an honest desire to cease disconnection with our Creator.”