The International Church of Cannabis

Nov 18, 2017 0 comments

The psychedelic interior of this 113-year-old converted Lutheran church in Denver’s Washington Park neighborhood is appropriate, for it’s the International Church of Cannabis. It’s a unique community where members, who call themselves Elevationists, use cannabis for spiritual purposes and to positively influence their lives.

“The International Church of Cannabis’ mission is to offer a home to adults everywhere who are looking to create the best version of themselves by way of the sacred plant,” reads the mission statement on their website. “Our lifestance is that an individual’s spiritual journey, and search for meaning, is one of self-discovery that can be accelerated with ritual cannabis use. Elevationists claim no divine authority, nor authoritarian structure, therefore, those of all religious and cultural background are welcome to visit our chapel and take part in our celebrations.”

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Photo credit: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post

The church opened its doors on April 20, 2017, a day celebrated by cannabis users as a kind of unofficial holiday for consuming pot. Surprisingly, the International Church of Cannabis is the third of its kind in the country; the other two are located in Lansing, Michigan, and Indianapolis, Indiana.

The community’s headquarter is located in a century-old brick structure which used to be called Mount Calvary Apostolic Church. The church property was purchased by the parents of Church of Cannabis co-owned Steve Berke with the intention of turning it into apartments. However, Berke and his friends convinced his parents to turn the church into the headquarter for their newly founded religion.

Berke hired legendary artist Kenny Scharf, whose work adorns the halls of Whitney and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, to provide a makeover. Berke also flew in Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel, who had already painted abandoned churches in Spain and Morocco, to do the interior.

On the day of the opening, some 50 people visited the church. As word got out, the number of subscribers rose to 200 in less than a week. As of August the church had the names of 1,400 on their list.

Marijuana is legal in Colorado but only if you smoke at home or in private clubs. To comply with local laws, smoking is not allowed inside the church during viewing hours from Thursday to Sunday. But on Friday nights private cannabis services are held. After services, members go downstairs for the “after party” and play ping-pong, or board games and munch snacks. Aaron Millar, who attended the private smoking club and wrote about his experiences on The Guardian, called it a stoner’s paradise.

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Photo credit: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post



Photo credit: Marc Piscotty


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