DENVER, CO—Stever Berke is the CEO of Bangholdings.com and one of the founders of the church for marijuana supporters. He owns the property which is a 113-year-old church. The building was embellished with beautiful and colorful paintings by artists Kenny Scharf and Okuda San Miguel.
However, the meanings behind the paintings and murals have nothing to do with their religion. According to their website, when one accepts the sacrament and ponders about the meaning behind the pictures, one will feel a spiritual experience and that’s when one will understand the murals.
According to their post at Indiegogo, the church still needs maintenance and repairs. They want the church to be accessible even to people with disabilities. Berke said that this church is a real church, and they will do things like what the other churches do.
The International Church of Cannabis was opened to the public on April 20, 2017, an unofficial day of celebration dedicated for cannabis which is also called “The Weed Day”. According to their website, they’re adapting 4/20 as a symbol of the marijuana culture.
They’re making it as an important date and number in their religion. However, marijuana consumption was not allowed inside. Marijuana use is only allowed by invites or during special events.
Lee Molloy, one of the founding members of the Elevation Ministries, a non-profit religion behind the church, estimated that there were hundreds of people who came to witness its opening ceremony . The church’s membership rose to more than 200 people after catching the attention of the media. Berke and Molloy wanted to do something different and unique.
According to Berke, the church doesn’t stick to specific principles, and they just wanted to build the community of volunteers. For him, cannabis is a sacrament that is used for religious purposes.
As stated on their post on Indiegogo’s website, the International Church of Cannabis is a non-profit religion and the first place in the world that welcomes cannabis consumers to achieve spiritual fulfillment by doing the ritual marijuana consumption without any fear.
They refer to their congregation as Elevationists. They believe that being on an Elevations is far from being just high on marijuana. For them, Elevations are awakened. According to their website, an Elevations experiences something spiritual in nature.
They are the people who believe that the search for their life’s meaning, self-discovery, and spirituality will be achieved through the ritual use of cannabis. According to them, their ritual is guided by spiritual practice. They will promote marijuana use to make the better version of themselves.
All people are invited to this intuitive experience, and there’s no need to convert to Elevations because Elevationists adhere to no principles and doctrines. People are encouraged no matter what religion they are in. For them, marijuana is a sacred flower that is used to reveal the best version of oneself.
The church is closed to the public at 2 pm to give way to the private celebration at 4:20 pm with the guests.
In 2012, the recreational use of cannabis was legalized in Colorado, but the public consumption is still illegal. The decision for proper usage of weed was left to the discretion of the city government. One of the greatest oppositionists on the opening of this church was a Democrat in Colorado’s House of Representatives, Dan Pabon.
Pabon attempted to ban the use of cannabis in churches except when it is used for religious purposes. According to Pabon, the bill is needed to protect the reputation of Colorado and its people from how the world will view them. Furthermore, he also thinks that the church offends other religious beliefs and the voters’ intention for allowing the legal use of cannabis in the state.
Berke sees Pabon’s amendment as an example of a religious persecution and that he should be embarrassed about his behavior.
However, the bill was rejected by both parties due to the unconstitutional restriction on religion. Even his fellow Democrat Joe Salazar opposed the bill. According to Salazar, the amendment is a “nanny state” government approach.
The particular way of worshipping should not be regulated by the state. However, Pabon is still hopeful that the Senate will reconsider the bill in a few weeks.
According to Salazar, the marijuana legalization especially in Colorado is unpredictable by nature. However, the founders of the International Church of Cannabis see to it that they, and the members of the church will do their best to abide the law and they will keep up with the changing regulations for marijuana use