Editor's note: A version of this story was originally published Feb. 17, 2017. Since then, the International Church of Cannabis' court case has seen delay after delay.
DENVER (CIRCA) — They call their multi-faith religion Elevationism.
The International Church of Cannabis opened on April 20, 2017. Recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012 in Colorado, but it is still illegal to smoke in public places. At its opening 4/20 service, the City of Denver cited the church for public consumption of marijuana and violating the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. A loss in court could close the church.
"As of today, we are unsure what the future holds," said Lee Molloy, one of the church's co-founders. "It is our belief that the City of Denver should not be wasting the resources of the taxpayer being concerned about an all-volunteer congregation of adults who are doing no harm to the community."
Denver’s case against the church continues to see delay after delay. The case was declared a mistrial on Feb. 28, 2018, when, according to Westword, Judge Fred Rogers deemed there were not enough impartial jurors available. The case then was rescheduled to July 11, only to be delayed until September, then November, and on and on.
“That will be [more than a year] since the so-called offense took place and it represents an infuriating waste of money to the Colorado taxpayers. There is no winning for the City of Denver, as they are already flying in the face of public opinion and the democratic process,” said Molloy.
The tenets of Elevationism are fairly simple. The church says that its members can believe whatever they want to, and that using marijuana will help them to discover those beliefs.
"There are as many pathways to Elevationism as there are Elevationists. We're all on our own individual, spiritual journeys," said Molloy.
"We believe that cannabis is a sacrament. It's a sacrament that helps you on your path and on your journey to self discovery, and really helps you elevate your understanding of your own life and your own spirituality," said Steve Berke, another co-founder of the church.
Berke goes on to explain that people of any faith background can be Elevationists.
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Its been a jam-packed weekend shooting footage for Denver Parks and Rec. As I sit here reflecting on the weekend, I'm still so blown away by all of the @elevationists who volunteered to clean up trash in the streets, sidewalks, and alleyways on the west side of Wash Park. Everyone was so passionate about being a positive force in the neighborhood. There couldn't have been a better group of folks to help us demonstrate Denver's community-minded spirit. Huge thanks to everyone who participated and to the lovely @w.w.of.the.w.w for helping us coordinate the shoot.
"Elevationists believe that there's more than one path, that everybody can have their own path to spiritual righteousness. We basically believe in the golden rule, which is treat others as you'd want to be treated, and we allow people to keep their dogmatic religious beliefs. You can still be a practicing Christian and an Elevationist. You can be a practicing Jew and an Elevationist," said Berke.
"No need to convert."
Services are held every Friday evening, and consist of a band or musician and a guest speaker. Attendees can light their cannabis off of a ceremonial candle, which is lit with a prayer every morning.
While the church remains open, not everyone is allowed to attend the International Church of Cannabis. Visitors must be 21 and over, according to marijuana consumption laws in Colorado.