Cannabis Churches Come Under Fire

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Two churches in the San Jose area are being pressured to shut down by city authorities because they do not have permits to distribute marijuana.

Getting people to roll out of bed early on Sunday and attend church may be a bit easier at two San Jose establishments. But for those looking to achieve an elevated sense of spirituality by smoking cannabis in church, their chance could soon disappear. San Jose officials are trying to shut down the pot parishes.

At first glance, Coachella Valley Church and Oklevueha Native American Church (ONAC) may seem like a standard chapel. There are pews and images of Jesus displayed. But, unlike most churches, members are encouraged puff at the pews. Coachella Valley Church and ONAC actually sell and distribute marijuana-infused products to their members.


But Sebastian Grey, a volunteer who helps at Coachella Valley Church, maintains that spirituality is the primary focus.

“We’re a church,” Grey said to ABC 13 when asked if they are marijuana dispensary.

“It’s just a $10 donation to be part of the church and then you’re a lifetime member… you’re able to show your ID, we’ll get you checked in, and you can go in the back, purchase products,” Grey added.

In Coachella’s lobby, a receptionist checks ids before attendees are allowed inside. Those looking to add a spark to their spirituality must be at least 18 years old. Children are unable to listen to the teachings of Jesus at Coachella Valley Church.

San Jose authorities are investigating the two churches since neither has a permit to distribute marijuana.

“Whatever their followers want to smoke, that’s not the issue. It’s the distribution and sale coming from the dispensary. The church issue just doesn’t fly,” said Rick Doyle, the city attorney for San Jose.

Churches are often excluded from having to pay taxes. It is one thing to reap the benefits of a tax-free bake sale, but churches do not generally sell a federally banned substance.

The 16 licensed marijuana dispensaries in San Jose pay 10 percent of their gross sales to the city.