Using marijuana as a spiritual means to be the best version of yourself used to be about as counterculture as it got. Nowadays, there’s a church for that – The International Church of Cannabis in Denver, Colorado.
Have we reached a new high and mighty?
A group of self-proclaimed Elevationists in Colorado are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a church. Through a guided spiritual ritual, they come together to smoke cannabis as a congregation. They “use the sacred flower to reveal the best version of self, discover a creative voice and enrich our community with the fruits of that creativity.” Their religion is non-dogmatic. There is no need to convert to Elevationism and all cultures and backgrounds are accepted.
“What we did here is we provided an environment for adults to safely consume cannabis in a spiritual way so that we could provide some sort of confirmation that it’s okay to use cannabis as part of your spiritual journey. We don’t think Elevationism is a replacement to your faith, it’s a supplement to it.”
Steve Berke is one of the church founders. His Jewish family is also the main donor keeping the church alive. Berke grew up in an era that was very anti-marijuana and believed the stigma that people who smoke aren’t successful. It wasn’t until a back injury in his mid-twenties that he started experimenting with medical marijuana. The tables completely turned for him when one day international business mogul Richard Branson handed Steve a joint.
“I was like, whoa, if Richard Branson can smoke weed and run a hundred different companies and be a James Bond-like figure, maybe it’s not the smoke weed-melt into your couch-not accomplish anything in your life stereotype that I thought it was.”
The use of cannabis for spiritual practices can be found in cultures from ancient China to modern day Rastafarianism. Elevationists don’t claim to have invented the practice, but gave it a name and provided a place of worship for it.
The Rolling Up of this Joint
Steve’s estate agent parents bought him the old church with plans to convert it into flats back in 2015. Him and some friends conceived the idea of keeping it a church, and decided to form Elevation Ministries, a nonprofit organization administering the church.
With their sights high, they flew in world-renowned artist Kenny Scharf to deck out the place. On April 20th, 2017 they opened their operation. Today it’s a stoners paradise complete with psychedelic colors and designs and a gift shop full of art, video games and gimmicks.
A free membership provides access to the ritual sacrament toke, but be sure to bring your own smoke. Otherwise, The International Church of Cannabis is open to the public Fridays from 1-3pm, and weekends from 12-6pm. A five dollar donation gets you in to view the premises and visit the gift shop, but consumption is not allowed during visitor hours.
Here’s where the sticky business comes in…
A Stoned Pipe Dream Up in Smoke?
After over a year of operations, Elevation Ministries is losing money every month. They don’t have a single paid employee. The only way they are staying open is thanks to very generous donations from Steve’s parents.
People might criticize Steve and say, ‘Oh, what a great tax-free haven,’ but let’s look at the reality. All the donations are going into keep the buildingoperating. Their utility bills are $2,000 per month and they are hardly covering those. Is Steve’s stoned pipe dream going up in smoke? Should we be talking about a tax haven, or a money dump?
All it takes is a visit to The International Church of Cannabis and an open mind to get to the bottom of this. Steve, his dog Munchy, and other volunteers welcome visitors to view the pulpit and feel their cannabis church vibe. While you are there, take some time to hear their stories about how cannabis has positively influenced their lives. If you are someone like me, this might be the tribe you were always missing, or the “church” you never knew you needed.
Care about cannabis in Colorado? Volunteer your time at The International Church of Cannabis. They need all the support they can get.