While mainstream America waits to see if the drug enforcement agents will kick down the door of Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis and drop the hammer down on those attending its inaugural ceremony later this summer, recent reports indicate that reefer rituals are already being conducted in Rhode Island, and police are, for the most part, keeping their distance.
Earlier last month, members of The Healing Church gathered at the Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence, the pulse of religious freedom, to attend a worship service where cannabis use is sacramental. The organization managed to obtain a permit to hold church services on federal property, with the understanding that U.S. Park Rangers would likely be positioned along the sidelines to ensure none of the members actually smoked weed.
To ward off the potential of an unsavory encounter with Uncle Sam’s henchmen, the group, which consisted of around 15 people, employed the use of various cannabis concoctions to skate by the government’s pesky “no smoking” rule. Alan Gordon, a representative for the church, who does not use the term “marijuana,” said that parishioners were anointed with cannabis oil and also consumed a fermented beverage originating from India called Bhang.
“Unlike the Indiana Church, we are sincere Judeo-Christian Bible-thumpers, who see “kaneh-bos” in Hebrew as the same plant as modern cannabis,” Gordon told High Times. “We have express federal, state and city recognition of our religious right.”
The Healing Church, which has been gathering for canna-mass for the past year at a house in West Greenwich, began holding hour-long prayer circles at the federal park prior to their big event because they claim the permit recognizes their First Amendment “right to use cannabis.”
However, that did not prevent authorities from attempting to swoop in and stop the group from expressing their religion. Organizers with The Healing Church recently sent High Times a video of local police questioning their daily smoke worship. In the video, Deaconess Anne Armstrong challenges two police officers in regards to the congregation’s right to smoke cannabis in the park. She even informs them that there is cannabis in her car, but in the end, they showed very little interest in a shakedown.
“We stood up, they backed down,” said Gordon.
Unfortunately, reports show that law enforcement has continued to harass members of The Healing Church, issuing citations to several of its members and even seizing “sacred” cannabis and other religious paraphernalia.