A California church that distributes cannabis and psychedelic drugs for sacred purposes has filed a lawsuit against the city of Oakland and its police, claiming the 2020 raid violated federal protections for religious freedom. .
A lawsuit was filed against the city and police by Zide Door Church. The facility serves as a center of worship for Auckland. ambrosia churchThe group is a “non-denominational, interfaith organization that supports the use and safe access to certain natural psychedelic drugs,” according to the group’s website. be. Clergy in robes adorned with cannabis leaves lead church services, and members are allowed to smoke cannabis as a sacrament and a pathway to connect with higher powers.
To join the church, prospective members complete an online questionnaire asking if the applicant is a member of law enforcement and accepts cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms as “part of your religion.” is needed. Upon joining the church, members can receive cannabis and psychedelic her mushrooms as donations to the church for a $5 monthly membership fee.
Before the coronavirus pandemic began, the church held services at 4:20 a.m. on Sundays, with founder Dave Hodges handing out joints. Hodges said the church opened in his early 2019 and now has a total membership of 60,000. Up to 200 people visit each day for cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms.
Cannabis has been legal in California since 2016, and in 2019 Oakland city leaders said they would decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms and other parasitic plants and fungi, although they are not allowed to sell them. I voted.
Lawsuits over Raid in 2020
In August 2020, Zide Door Church was raided by Auckland Police Department officers. Law enforcement officers broke into the church and seized approximately $200,000 in cannabis, mushrooms and cash. Police claimed the facility operated as an unlicensed clinic, not a legal place of worship.No charges were filed in the case, but cash and drugs seized by police during the raid were returned to the church. It has not been.
In May 2019, the city received a complaint that Zide Door Church was operating as an unlicensed cannabis dispensary, according to an affidavit filed with a search warrant issued during the search. He then exchanged the cash for cannabis. Just days later, the church was raided by the police. A fine and warning were issued to Hodges, but no one was taken into custody.
After the raid, critics were skeptical that the church was a legitimate place of worship, claiming it was instead a haven for selling drugs.
Lawsuits filed against the city and police allege that the raids and seizures violated the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. It details the “sacred use” of cannabis, psilocybin and other natural psychedelic drugs as a way to connect with the Eternal Soul, Spiritual Being, and God. However, consuming psilocybin mushrooms is not allowed.
“This is no excuse to sell drugs.” Hodges said of San Francisco Chronicle“This is what we truly believe is the origin of all religion, and what religion really should be.”
The lawsuit alleges that the raid violated the church’s “honest religious practice” in violation of federal law and the church’s right to free religious practice under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Oakland Police did not comment when asked about the lawsuit. Washington PostCity attorney Barbara Parker told reporters the city had not yet taken legal action, but declined to comment further.
Jesse Chopper, a legal expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said the church’s religious liberty claim might win if the case went to trial.
“If it’s not a bogus business,” he said.
But Irwin Kemerinski, president of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, said the excuse that religious liberty exempts the church from state drug laws is unlikely for the church to succeed.
“The general rule is that there are no exceptions to the law of religious belief.” He said“Assuming California law applies to everyone and has no discretion to grant exceptions, there is no basis for objection on the basis of religion.”