The International Church of Cannabis is a new church based in Denver; it’s Mile High with a little Mile Holy rolled in. People who practice inside this church are known as Elevationists. They aspire to discover the best versions of themselves, develop a creative voice, and enhance their community through creativity and authenticity. Elevationism, per the church, has no divine law, no rigid doctrine, and no authoritarian structure. In short, it’s a cannabis church with ideology not written in stone. It’s also a church that celebrates ritual cannabis use.
A Few FAQs About Cannabis Church
According to their website, the International Church of Cannabis based in Denver isn’t affiliated with the similarly named church based in Indiana; they were birthed from the same idea, however. It’s a church that welcomes people from all walks of life, assuming they are a certain age:
Only people over 21 are allowed inside. The reason for this is obvious: marijuana and youth don’t mix
The church claims that their life stance is “that when we ritually take cannabis, our minds are elevated and we become a better version of ourselves. And, to the Elevationist, the cannabis flower is a gift from the universal creative force.”
So, how does a person become an Elevationist? The website lists many paths, stating that no two people experience the same path. It also states that the “Elevationist is awakened at the time that his/her cannabis experience becomes transcendental in nature.” The essence is that no one person can tell another how to achieve their personal goals.
The Point of the Cannabis Church
Despite what some people may think, the church wasn’t developed merely as a reason to smoke pot – in Colorado, there are already plenty of reasons (it’s legal, you’re breathing, etc.).
From the horse’s mouth, the existence of the International Church of Cannabis is made to serve as a “focal point for people all around the world who wish to be a part of an organization that is accepting of cannabis use in one’s personal journey and search for meaning. It is a meeting place for people to find support in their spiritual quest. There is not judgement in the church. Everyone is welcome to follow their own path as long as they remember to live by the Golden Rule. What’s the Golden Rule? Essentially, to treat others as you wish to be treated.”
There Goes the Neighborhood
Of course, marijuana is controversial and any church built in its name is a beacon for hullabaloo; the church is no exception. One reason for this controversy is the idea that the church is really a cover for a cannabis-based nightclub (Peach Pit After Dark, anyone?), something not legal in Denver. Helping this rumor along is the fact that the church brings in comedic acts and music performers as part of each sermon. Denver’s teetering about cannabis clubs isn’t helping, either: local officials toyed with the idea of putting these types of clubs on the ballot, though they backed down in fear that doing so would draw unwanted attention to Colorado’s pot scene. With a presidential administration that has been Mary Lame about Mary Jane, unwanted attention isn’t desired.
Even so, the club factor isn’t the only thing rocking the boat. Some members of the Wash Park neighborhood where the church is located feel as though they were blindsided – no one told them what was happening. It was secrecy that went on for a while too.
According to the Denver Post, the building where the church is located was purchased back in July 2015 for just over a million dollars. Elevation Ministries was incorporated in September 2015 and the church was granted a zoning permit for religious activities on March 22, 2017. The church officially opened on April 20th, an important “hollah-day” for pot enthusiasts.
Per the law, any event where cannabis is being consumed must be private and not open to the public, but residents of the nearby neighborhood aren’t merely worried about things going up in smoke, so to speak. They’re also worried about parking (there is no real parking lot), noise disturbances (the live music probably won’t feature Amy Grant), the proximity to a Montessori school, and attendees driving while under the influence.
Legally, there’s not much that can be done by those who are pissed off: the church is protected by the First Amendment
But that hasn’t kept local authorities from promising to keep a watchful eye out for the mischief of any neighborhood toughs.
The grand opening in April was lowkey, so lowkey that some of the people complaining beforehand regretted it afterward (or at least stopped fretting). But they still wonder what will happen when the church succeeds in booking better known bands with large followings.
Some of those wondering attended the West Washington Park Neighborhood Association’s board meeting on May 2; here, residents spoke of being affected personally and of concern about their once-quiet streets growing loud and rambunctious. Those speaking did note that they were progressive about pot themselves – they were proponents of legalization – but they didn’t want their burg to become an international destination for pot worshippers.
The owner of the church, Steve Berke, responded to concerned citizens by claiming that he wants to be respectful of the neighborhood and has security cameras as a precaution. He also said,
“We’re not trying to hide; we’re not trying to have some sort of cloak of secrecy.”
And he invited anyone interested in finding out what went on inside to see for themselves – the church offers open hours, when consumption isn’t allowed, and the public is welcome.
For anyone in Colorado interested in visiting, the International Church of Cannabis is located at 400 South Logan Street. For anyone outside of Colorado interested in visiting, the church is also located at 400 South Logan Street.