Two churches in San Jose, California remain in hot water after offering church-goers pot, in addition to a controversial marketing campaign featuring a pot-smoking Jesus. California officials believe both churches in question are fronts for illegal weed dispensaries.
Shrouded In Controversy
Coachella Valley Church, a Rastafarian congregation, has caught the ire of San Jose officials for selling cannabis products from a dispensary in the back of the church. A welcome video, depicting a bong-toking Jesus, encourages members to purchase and smoke weed.
For just $10, people can become official members of the church and purchase an assortment of cannabis products. Per Coachella Valley’s website, the congregation encourages its members to use cannabis as a tool for meditation and prayer.
“Cannabis is used with the meditation of a Rastafari,” according to its website. “We bless cannabis before smoking it by giving a short prayer, or just being aware about the fact we are burning something sacred and treat it with Respect. It can be used to get a heightened state of awareness, where we can feel one with the Life Force ‘JAH,’ or deepened insights about anything we put our focus on.”
However, the church believes that the government is interfering with their religious practices.
“Our Rastafarian Cannabis Church in San Jose is not politically originated,” Coachella’s websites reads. “And we support no political organization, or commercial institution, seeing that religion, politics, and commerce are the three unclean spirits which separate the people from their God.”
The other church in question, the Oklevueha Native American Church, views cannabis as a sacrament, and its website claims sacred medications such as weed and peyote are considered “a mandatory part of our spiritual journey.”
But a California judge has reportedly ordered to cease the distribution of weed, regardless of their practices, as it remains illegal to sell cannabis without the proper licensing and permits from the city.
“Whatever their followers want to smoke, that’s not the issue,” San Jose city attorney Rick Doyle said. “It’s the distribution and sale coming from the dispensary the church issue that just doesn’t fly.”
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Regardless of semantics, it is believed both churches are operating under false pretenses in an effort to find a loophole around San Jose’s 16 dispensary limit. The state law only allows 16 dispensaries to operate and any other operators not found on the list are considered violators of state law. Both Coachella Valley Church and the Oklevueha Native American Church would fall under that category.
Additionally, since neither church operates under the constraints of a standard dispensary, they’re not paying taxes to the city. Each of the 16 San Jose dispensaries is required to pay 10 percent of its gross sales.
Doyle confirmed a judge has ordered Oklevueha to stop operating within the next 10 days and added the city plans to do the same with the Coachella Valley Church.
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