Decoding California's Cannabis Churches


Rastafarian church. Ever heard the term? Neither had I. Until one day; I saw a man walking down the street from my house wearing a "Jesus Loves You " t-shirt and screaming at the top of his lungs, "Thank God for cannabis!" and a couple of people just joining this chorus.

Now keep in mind, I moved here a couple of weeks back, and for me, a not so frequent user this was a culture shock. , what is going on here?

If you go through the Bible, it is easy to draw parallels between cannabis and the mentioned kaneh bosom oil. In the translation from Greek to English, this particular text has been described as a fragrant cane or sweet calamus. This oil is considered to be a part of the anointing oil mentioned in the Exodus.


Cannabis As Sacrament

There are quite a few of these "churches " popping up all over California. They are primarily focused on the teachings that are largely Christian in nature but also have hints of different traditions like Rastafarianism, Buddhism, and Judaism.

At Hundred Harmonies near Los Angeles upon reaching the first thing I was given was a joint, a lighter, and a bottle of water. Not bad for a Sunday morning. But that is not what first caught my attention but rather the 15 people who seem to be more interested in the powdered donut -joint combination rather than the protestant reformation service, which went on to then incorporate Martin Luther in the narrative. 

A quirky experience at best and a downright bizarre one at worst, one is forced to introspect what exactly is going on here. Is it a complete farce or a religious movement to reckon.

The roots of Marijuana in churches is in the way they describe themselves. Rastafarian. That is the word thrown around the most when you have a conversation regarding the start of this movement.  The catch with calling oneself a Rastafarian church is that they don't really need to define themselves in absolute terms. There is the story that states they began in Jamaica and instead of conservative Christians, take into account mysticism and pan-Africanism values. The biggest attraction, there is absolutely no central authority that is responsible for regulating their political and religious beliefs. There is nothing more dangerous than a heard without a leader.  


The Issue

Cannabis in California is legal. But, the legitimate sellers in the state face a long and expensive licensing process along with some right quality control standards and high taxes. 

Further, about 80% of municipalities in California still don't allow dispensaries. So, it is a fair game for anyone with the goods to sell.

A recent audit recently placed the number of unlicensed dispensaries at around 2,835, in comparison to the 873 licensed ones. This is a significant issue in California where the state could manage to collect only one-third of the amount of tax revenue it had projected,  $345 million instead of the projected $ 1billion.

In a situation where businesses are claiming to be churches instead of dispensaries, it, of course, a cause for concern.

The Defense

Money has to be flowing from somewhere for these churches to be thriving, and here you need to congratulate the traditional set up of a church where you donate to prove faith (Hint: Try Scientology).

So, you never actually pay for the Marijuana, all you do is make donations to the church. Some churches offer a paid membership that allows the members to smoke in a public area, and if you want to take your sacrament home, just donate a little more.

These churches are fully stocked with the poison of your choice; you have edibles, pre-rolls, tinctures, and loose Marijuana. As this story has been coming into the mainstream media, the mandatory donations have switched to become voluntary in nature.    

For licensed dispensaries, this is no less than the black market.

An often-used defense is a very interesting mix of state and federal laws that were made to shield religious civil liberties. This where the Native Americans come in; they use illicit drugs ( peyote ayahuasca) in their ceremonies.  


The Need For More 

The marijuana legalization fervor started with the introduction of medical Marijuana, but as that has been legalized, you have people coming in with the movement of religious Marijuana. This is the problem that human nature is often faced with, there is always something better that can be achieved. You have a movement that even medical marijuana doctors approve of. Then you have a takeover by faux pastors running profitable businesses behind closed doors under the guise of religion.


The Solution 

The availability is the biggest drawback, push aside human greed. Still, there is an entire lot of human beings who are in this for the right reasons, and they would have no reason to resort to black-market antics if they could obtain it legally.

As far as the church is concerned, it just reeks of insincerity; the final decision, of course, lies with you.