International Church of Cannabis founding members

The International Church of Cannabis has renovated an old church building, turning it into a vibrant space. Above, the founding members pose inside.


Today, April 20th, marks the grand opening of the International Church of Cannabis, a religious organization that preaches self-betterment through marijuana use. Located in Denver, the church is hoping to attract the city’s cannabis lovers and provide a welcoming place for them to congregate.

Fittingly, church members refer to themselves as “Elevationists”. While they have no distinct theology, the Elevationists share a common goal of creating the best version of themselves. According to founding member Steve Berke, “cannabis accelerates and deepens that process.”

Old Building, New Tenants

The International Church of Cannabis has repurposed a 100-year old building that was once the home of a Lutheran church. They’ve completely transformed the space, turning it into a vibrant, colorful house of worship. An artist spent months painting the ceiling in bright eccentric patterns that undoubtedly look even more amazing after a few puffs of a joint. In addition to daily meetings of the congregation, the church plans to host nightly entertainment events such as live comedy and film screenings.

Wall art within the International Church of Cannabis

A Hazy Legal Matter

However, residents in the semi-suburban Denver neighborhood where the church is located have concerns about their new “pot-worshiping” neighbors. They worry the church will have a negative impact on the community and set a bad example for area youth. 

Some people are convinced that that the International Church of Cannabis will be a short-lived experiment. Currently, Colorado’s marijuana laws do not allow for open consumption in public places. Essentially, this means that creating a public space for people to smoke pot is prohibited – even if they’re doing so for religious reasons. Authorities may choose to intervene if they determine that the church is breaking the law.

However, supporters say this is a hypocritical policy. They argue that the ritual consumption of cannabis is no different from the ritual consumption of alcohol and unleavened bread in Christian religions. Why should one be allowed but the other prohibited?

As of yet, it’s not clear how authorities will respond, but it doesn’t appear that the Elevationists have any intention of backing down.

International Church of Cannabis signIs It a Real Religion?

The legitimacy of the International Church of Cannabis has also been called into question. Some critics simply don’t believe that cannabis worship is a real religion, and insist the church is no more than a scheme to justify getting high all the time.

“If that were the case, this would be an expensive and inefficient way to get stoned,” countered church member Lee Molloy. “We’re interested in building something larger here — a community that supports each other as we each discover our own paths.”

Elevationists argue that while they don’t worship a particular god or gods, the church’s values are meaningful and inclusive to a wide audience. Self-actualization and self-improvement are indeed noble ideals to strive for. If these folks find that cannabis helps them achieve these ideals, who are we to stop them?

Bill Levin, founder of the First Church of Cannabis

ULC minister Bill Levin, founder of the First Church of Cannabis.

Not Alone in Cannabis Worship

It should be noted, this is not the first religious cannabis community to make headlines. Longtime visitors to this site might remember reading about the First Church of Cannabis, founded by ULC minister Bill Levin. Based in Indiana, the First Church of Cannabis is involved in an ongoing legal battle for the right to smoke marijuana during as a part of worship. While they have yet been unsuccessful, that case differs slightly because Indiana still has strict anti-marijuana laws, whereas Colorado has legalized the drug state-wide.

Freedom of Religion

As the International Church of Cannabis opens its doors today, marijuana enthusiasts everywhere will be watching to see what happens. Supporters are hopeful that the local authorities will leave the group alone and allow them to consume cannabis in peace. However, if displeased neighbors continue complaining, law enforcement may decide to shut the church down. This whole situation raises an age-old question: how far does freedom of worship extend?

What do you think? Is the International Church of Cannabis a real church? Should they be allowed to smoke marijuana during church services?

56 comments

  1. Rob says:

    As someone who grew up in a religious law enforcement family, this sickens me. Respect for the law and for God are paramount in this country, and these hippies seem to have NEITHER. I say call the DEA and bust down the doors immediately!

    1. unclescarysworld says:

      I can not fathom that marijuana will ever be legalized simply because an individual with a few seeds and a flower pot could grow what they needed without any tax collected. It all boils down to money.

    2. Tom Hickey says:

      Which God Rob?

    3. Lee Boutell says:

      Rob, but the fact remains that pot is fully legal in 8 states and medial marijuana is legal in over half of all the states. The legalization movement is growing quickly and has similarities to prohibition in the 1930’s when alcohol was considered evil because it was destroying so many lives and families. But then it became legal, because prohibition just did not work and the results of it were considered more harmful than the use of alcohol itself. Prohibition was when organized crime, mobsters and bootleggers became so powerful in this country, and it did not prevent the use of alcohol.

      Marijuana prohibition is meeting the same fate, although slowly because it has to be done one state at a time. So your argument that marijuana use disrespects the law just doesn’t fly. And your argument that pot use does not respect God is based on limited understanding of how it is used with deep respect as a religious sacrament, which is the basis of many religions. Tolerance for other religions is necessary if we wish to have a civil society. That is why our founders made religious freedom number one in the Bill of Rights.

    4. Mary Jane says:

      You need to smoke some weed

    5. Kyle Porter says:

      Rob for shame you don’t have to look passed the first page of the bible to find out God created every seed bearing herb and said it was good how could it ever be anything different marijauna is good

    6. Ro says:

      If smoking cigarettes is OK, so is smoking pot and ‘vaping.’ Anyone who thinks that god has an opinion about this should never take a stand on church rules. Even atheists have opinions on this, but love and tolerance is our code, isn’t it?

    7. revtombrownRev. Tom Brown says:

      Well Rob, you obviously never read the Bible. Exodus 30, verses 22-30 records the formula for the Holy Anointing Oil, the Chrism that makes a Christ. That calls for 8 ounces of marijuana flowers in one pint of oil, poured over Samson’s dread head till it drips off the edge of his beard onto the skirt of his garment. Check that out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXoZtD-q4tk The Truth shall set us free. The Pope made this illegal in 1188 and sent Dominic into the south of France to convert the Cather Church – founded by Mary of Magdelene and her sister Martha after the Ressurection. When Dominic’s lies could not get the job done, the Pope sent in the troops in 1208 to wipe out the Cather’s. Is Rob a Catholic? Old Lies tell no tales we want to hear anyway.

    8. LancasterPA home of cow pies says:

      What the hell is a religious law enforcement family? Was your name Hitler? Definitely a Trump Sucker.

    9. George Tusi says:

      rob, I hear you shouting out loud CRUCIFY HIM. !!! and LET ME CAST THE FIRST STONE. !!!!

  2. Rev. Nellie says:

    Something I think is interesting to point out when talking about Church sacraments and the law is that the Catholic Church serves alcohol to children and this is considered legal despite our country’s drinking age. It seems very unfair that some religions have to comply with the law regarding their sacraments but others are seemingly exempt from following the law. What makes one religions sacrament exempt and another’s criminal?

    1. Rev. Nellie says:

      I just wanted to add, I in no way intended to imply that this Church intended to make their sacrament available to children. I have read in other news articles that they require you to be an adult before recieving their sacrament. I was speaking more broadly about how some Church’s are exempt from following laws that pertain to their holy worship and sacraments while other churches seem to be discriminated against. It is easy for a reasonable person to assume that contrary to popular belief we maybe don’t have religious freedom in this country after all.

    2. jbwphoto1 says:

      In South Carolina, and I’m sure some other states, it is legal for a parent over 21 to give alcohol to their child under 21. I’ve always thought one of the reasons was because of sacrament.

  3. Steve Wehrenberg says:

    Interesting question: “Is the International Church of Cannabis a real church?” What would be the criterion for a “real” church? Is any church “real?” I try not to deride anyone’s faith, but all churches seem to be based on a belief in a supernatural (a.k.a. imaginary) friend or guide. So I have to answer the question with my earlier question: What are the criteria for a “real” church?” I guess I’d start with “makes parishioners better people,” and maybe “improves the community in which it exists.” Anyone?

    1. ronthabarberga says:

      The First Cannabis Church of Georgia is real . While still only an internet church we do hope to have our own chapel someday. We are real people reaching out to and serving those in the Georgia 420 community wherever we can .Please visit our facebook page.. The First Cannabis Church of Georgia

  4. Lee Boutell says:

    The use of cannabis in religion is not new. The Rastafarians have been doing so since at least the 1930’s. See the following Wikipedia article and note the “Spiritual use of Cannabis” section: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari

    The use of various mind-altering herbs and alcohol for spiritual purposes has been common since the beginning of humanity, according to archaeologists and researchers. Our Constitutional right to practice our own religion without persecution or hindrance should be the eventual outcome with this new church, as long as nobody is being discriminated against or hurt in some way. It is my own belief that the use of cannabis, alcohol or other mental intoxicants should be limited to adults only, and I would not support the use of it for children or for others not mature enough or mentally capable of making an informed decision on their own.

    The use of cannabis by itself does not normally induce violence, anger or hatred, but instead is known to promote feelings of peace, harmony, and inclusivity among its users. I see no harm in accepting this new American religious movement, as long as the use of cannabis is limited to “adults only.”

    1. JOHN MAHER says:

      I like YOUR INPUT LEE BOUTELL, !!!

    2. Steve Wehrenberg says:

      Well crafted reply, Lee.

    3. Tom Hickey says:

      Thank You Lee

    4. Brother John says:

      You’re right Lee. Humans using hemp/marijuana goes way back in time….

      http://www.narconon.ca/drug-information/marijuana-timeline.html

    5. Mark wease says:

      I feel the same way and I find that pot is far less damaging to a person than cigarettes or alcohol, both of Wich are legal and regulated just as pot should be!

    6. Robin says:

      I really dont have an opinion one way or the other…I understand if they made Marijuana legal, this country may not have a heroin or opiod epidemic now and have people overdosing on drugs

  5. Bernard Moleman says:

    dope smokers are DEMONS

    1. Steve Wehrenberg says:

      Ok, Bernard. What is a “demon?”

      1. Bernard Moleman says:

        POT SMOKING black lives matter activists! Go to Seattle (city of demons) and you’ll see plenty!

        1. Stephen Wehrenberg says:

          Ah. I see.

        2. Brother John says:

          I didn’t find “City of Demons” on the list of nicknames for Seattle, Bernard.

          The Rattle
          City of Flowers (adopted in the 1940s)
          Coffee Capital of the World
          Emerald City: official since 1982
          Jet City: for the prominence of the aerospace industry, especially Boeing.
          Queen City (of the Pacific Northwest): official from 1869–1982
          Rain City

          However, if you scroll down this link to “Keep it real” there is a mention of “demon brownies”. It’s obvious you object to pot smoking, but maybe a couple of those brownies would help stabilize you.

          http://www.nimbinpotshop.com/smoke-marijuana-legally-washington-state/

        3. Ed Moriarty says:

          I detect a need for peace and love in your life, Bernard.

    2. Lee Boutell says:

      Bernard, I would be interested to hear any evidence to support the idea that cannabis smokers are demons.

      1. Stephen Wehrenberg says:

        I think Bernard’s answer above will shed light on this, Lee.

      2. Brother John says:

        How about this, Lee?

        1. Stephen Wehrenberg says:

          I hope Bernard recognizes that the video is a great satire.

    3. Mark wease says:

      Well aren’t we a moron! (No it’s not a question!)

  6. William w. George says:

    MySelf and my friend Tony are pastor and assistant pastor of our own church,we also preach that useing cannabis to commune with GOD is our 1st ammendment right, we support the members of the international church of cannabis and wish them luck in there endeavors, sincerely pastor William George, Church of the burning bush Phoenix Az. Ooohgabooga baby, that’s Amen to you.

  7. William w. George says:

    God is good ,God is great ,in his name another toke I’ll take, oohgabooga baby.! Haters gonna hate, because there to blind to see, when I smoke it’s the Lord and me .

  8. William w. George says:

    Support your 1st ammendment, light it up for GOD..

  9. Howie says:

    Congratulations on a beautiful church! I wish the Elevationists great success and hope to one day visit during my travels. Life is nothing more than a journey to reach the highest self!

  10. Dave says:

    I use and have used 40 yrs. no not this venue. Clouded is the thinking.good lord recognizes you / us. I was ordained under another reason
    Blessings and luck to you

  11. WeedGod says:

    I know a few people who smoke it religiously and some who don’t. I partake sometimes and would think that a church is a private setting, like being with family. I’m also certain underage peoples wouldn’t be allowed to participate nor enter, sort of like a bar. No harm in smokin’ some dope and preachin’ love and tolerance. Congratulations Elevationists!

  12. Caryl says:

    It seems to me that the wrong issue is being discussed here, sort of a smoke screen. If I were a neighbor my concern would be the comedy and music venues at night. This sounds, from the article, like they are opening essentially a night club/comedy club in a residential neighborhood but instead of liquor they are offering weed. Looked at that way, and as someone who has raised children and run nightclubs, I would object to their being in my neighborhood, and I would do it very publically and vocally. Sabbath worship, and other traditional religious type meetings wouldn’t be an issue if the consumption of weed is truly being used as a sacrament. But if they are just setting up a nightclub or a smoking gallery, no way. Based on the amazing art work and effort put into the building I am guessing that either they are genuinely setting up as a church or (and I think it more likely) they are setting up a nonprofit night club. If it is a religious thing then there should no question that negotiating the nighttime activities with the neighborhood can accomplish an agreement.

  13. Mark wease says:

    I’ve always found my greatest moments of clarity in a heavy cloud of sativa smoke!

  14. Mark wease says:

    Religion is “supposed” to elevate you mind, put peace in your heart, and leave you blissful in it’s wake! Often in my life when trying to attend “normal” churches (of all faiths and in a shit load of states) I’ve found that the only people who get me are of the herbal community, and I find many of them think the same way I do so this church would probably be the first place I would feel at home in!

  15. Jim says:

    Ummm…. I don’t care. I don’t smoke pot. If they want to smoke pot, let ’em. Who cares? Church is private property. If the law allows for pot smoking on private property, case closed. I don’t care if they smoke themselves into a coma. The neighbors are concerned? Tough. If they are not committing any crimes, then mind your own business. If they see crimes being committed, call the police.

    Is this really the kind of stuff we are going to waste our time with? There are so many real catastrophes in the world that need our attention, but we’re worried about a bunch of hippy-dippy pot smokers? Pah-lease!

    1. Kathy Jones says:

      Preach!

    2. Brother John says:

      Not all pot smokers are “hippy-dippy”, Jim. Dr. Carl Sagan for example…

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/carl-sagan-marijuana_n_3367112.html

  16. Kalyb says:

    In the picture it’s a vape pen not weed….

  17. Scott says:

    From what is presented this is simply a club, members have a common devotion to the practice and use of marijuana and I don’t find fault with that. I would be hard pressed to even call this a cult. The people that I have know that were very frequent marijuana users never talked about becoming more aware spiritually, if anything they became less aware of what was around them, perhaps what they wanted. That said people can do as they please (within the law), I can see where some people may think they are making a mockery of religion, but then again so few people really practice what they preach, or what they claim to believe in

  18. Leonard Rudnick says:

    Jesus rebelled against the existing religious practices/philosophies of the times. Ever hear of, ” Judge not, lest yes be judged.”

  19. kenneth bruun-olsen says:

    BRAVO. I Believe in GOD and GOD Believes in Me, and GOD Believes in WEED. Do YOU Believe in GOD?

  20. Jose Soto says:

    That’s funny. Spoking pot is ok, but breast feeding?

  21. Minister Morgan says:

    Live and let live…..Religion around the world have done unspeakable things in the name of religion….all these people are trying to do is belong to a religion that makes sense to them….BTW God made weed….its a weed people… get over it…. if it offends you don’t belong to that church…They are not condemning Christians or Catholics for what they believe in…or what they do in their church so what gives anyone the right to do it to them….

  22. amoderate says:

    Someone should look at the SCOTUS decision on the subject of banned substances being used in religious services. Here is a like to research on the question. The Feds have to prove it is not an integral part of the religion. http://www.pewforum.org/2006/02/21/supreme-court-rules-that-religious-group-can-use-illegal-drug-in-their-worship-services/

  23. Cocojohn says:

    Sorry, my answer is no and no. The definition of church needs to be tightened. Gathering together in order to get high, drunk, eat, or even have sex, is not worshipping. It is simply an excuse to practice whatever vice you get off on. This is not a church.

  24. Joe cool says:

    God made weed, humans made liquor. Do the math

  25. Kathy Jones says:

    No need to light up.. sacrament is edible, right?!?

  26. Rev Brandon Baker says:

    One love to all, 10 yr ULC minister, 10 years thc-minister and 10 yrs leader and founder of greenfaith ministry, If in colorado please visit us as well we have had places in northern colorado and colorado springs for years!

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