International Church of Cannabis
|International Church of Cannabis|
The church building in 2018.
|Type||Cannabis-based New religious movement|
|Origin||April 20, 2017 |
|Congregations||1 (Washington Park, Denver)|
|Part of a series on|
The International Church of Cannabis is a religious organization in Denver that uses cannabis as a sacrament and adheres to no specific dogma. Its members, known as Elevationists, claim that the use of cannabis helps elevate people to a higher understanding of self.
The chapel headquarters, a converted old church painted by contemporary artists, opened its doors on April 20, 2017. An amendment banning cannabis consumption in churches was submitted to the Colorado House of Representatives on the same day and rejected as an unconstitutional restriction on religion.
Since smoking cannabis in public is banned in Colorado, no cannabis consumption is allowed during the hours when the church is open to the public. A celebration of the "sacrament of cannabis," held only for members every Friday, is the only regular service in the church.
Members of the International Church of Cannabis are known as Elevationists. They ritually use cannabis, which they call "the sacred flower," to accelerate and deepen self-discovery. A member is considered awakened when their cannabis experience becomes transcendental in nature. Elevationism claims no divine law and no unquestionable doctrine, while following the Golden Rule.
Since 420 is a significant number for cannabis culture, the church opened its doors to the public on April 20 and its members light cannabis at 4:20 p.m. This celebration of the "sacrament of cannabis," held every Friday, is the only regular service in the church. The symbol of the church is a set of interlocking triangles.
By itself, ritual use of cannabis is not a modern invention, as it appeared in several world religions over a period of 3,000 years. Also, the International Church of Cannabis is just one of several modern religious organizations that consider cannabis a sacrament.
In May 2017, the church announced that it would begin offering wedding services in a "cannabis-friendly" environment.
Members of any religion can become Elevationists without the need to convert, since Elevationism is seen as a supplement rather than a replacement to existing faith. The only restriction is that persons under 21 years of age are not allowed into the church when cannabis is being burned. The church does not have a formal hierarchy.
Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but it is currently still illegal to smoke in Denver’s public spaces. All ritual cannabis use at the church is by invitation only. The church also does not sell marijuana. On the federal level, Elevationism is protected by constitutional religious freedom as long as it is considered an authentic religious belief.
Dan Pabon, a Democrat in the Colorado House of Representatives, proposed an amendment banning cannabis consumption in churches on 20 April 2017, the same day the church opened. He confirmed that his move was inspired by the International Church of Cannabis. However, members of both parties in the House concluded it would be an unconstitutional restriction on religion. They rejected his proposal and the amendment was not formally introduced.
The church is housed in a 113-year-old structure in Denver’s Washington Park neighborhood. It is a converted Lutheran church, which used to be called Mount Calvary Apostolic Church. The church property was purchased in July 2015 by a company co-owned by church co-founder Steve Berke and his parents with the intention to turn it into apartments. However, Berke's colleagues and friends, who later became co-founding members of the church, convinced him, and eventually the company, to establish a new church in lieu of converting the building into condos.
The colorful surrealist interior paintings, with geometric neon colors and images of animals, were done by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel, who had already painted abandoned churches in Spain and Morocco. American artist Kenny Scharf painted the facade with graffiti-inspired murals.
In March 2017, Elevation Ministries established a two-year licensing and management agreement with Bang Digital Media, a publicly traded company founded by church co-founder Steve Berke, which does marketing work for the cannabis industry.
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