Early in the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis, there were attempts to tie cannabis to a church. This decision seems to suggest that members of the church should enjoy certain freedoms. While cannabis use has been shown to be part of spiritual practice, church members argue that they should be allowed to do whatever they want during these ceremonies. May their method of worship be respected.
Unfortunately for these churches, the municipalities do not agree. Two separate cases, in two separate cities, showed that municipalities are not buying the religious claims of these cannabis congregations.
Ambrosia Church in Oakland, California is suing the city and alleging discrimination when it was denied a land use permit by the city. In its August 12 filing, Ambrosia Church and its local congregation, Zide Door Entheogenic Plant Church, said they had been denied a mining permit. The Church also claims that police officer John Romero entered the church using a fictitious name and asked to be a member recognizing the use of plants within the church. He then returned with a search warrant, which he allegedly used to force open one of the property’s safes and also damaged five other safes. He is also charged with seizing documents, inventory logs dated August 13, 2020, a computer, cannabis and mushroom products and cash totaling over $4500.00.
The Church of Ambrosia claims to practice the religious use of entheogenic plants. Plant entheogens are classified as Schedule I substances of the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act. The church says it practices ambrosia, an established spirit religion that has evolved over thousands of years and is described as shamanism. The complaint stated, “Central and essential to the Ambrosia religion is the sincere and sacramental use of entheogenic plants and fungi, including cannabis and psilocybin.”
The church also believes Measure Z, which was approved by Oakland voters, covers up their worship and makes tackling cannabis a low priority. The church says it should be able to practice its religion freely and does not charge its members for cannabis or magic mushrooms. In June 2019, the Oakland City Council approved a resolution which basically decriminalized mushrooms and other psychedelic plants. However, the church acknowledges that its members give it money, but says it’s just to reimburse the church “for time, travel, lab tests, upkeep and upkeep of the sacrament. provided inside”.
It appears the law disagrees and interprets cash payments as the church acting as a dispensary, for which it has no license. The officer wrote: “After completing the membership process, [ROMERO] was able to buy 3.5 grams. of packaged cannabis bud material and manufactured cannabis material for US currency.
In Los Angeles, the city claimed that the Jah Healing Kemetic Temple of the Devine, Inc. was a California nonprofit corporation and did business under the fictitious name of Jah Healing Church. The city alleges that it “continues to do business illegally in the City of South Gate on the property located at 3463 Tweedy Boulevard, South Gate, CA.”
The complaint stated, “The City further alleges that under the false pretense of acting as a church or religious organization, JHC Defendants surreptitiously engaged in and conducted illegal and prohibited cannabis business activities on the infringing property. of SGMC § 7.80.010(A) and state law, including but not limited to cultivation, possession, manufacture, processing, storage, laboratory testing, labeling , transportation, distribution and sale of marijuana products, including medical and non-medical marijuana, non-medical cannabis products and medical cannabis products.” The complaint specifically identified Christopher Tindall as part of the Jah organization.
The case was due to go to trial on July 12, but Tindall was later kicked out of the courtroom for being disruptive. “Subsequently, the Court found that Christopher Tindall left the 5th floor of the courthouse and did not return or call the Court. The Court further found that Christopher Tindall voluntarily absented himself from the trial and that his failure to return to court was an implied waiver of his presence.
On August 12, the judge handling the case permanently barred Tindall and anyone using this location from selling, manufacturing or giving away cannabis in the town of South Gate. The order included “the cultivation, possession, manufacture, processing, storage, laboratory testing, labeling, transportation, distribution or sale of marijuana products, including medical marijuana and non-medical, non-medical cannabis products and medical cannabis products within the meaning of Business and Professions Code §19300 et seq.