There’s no religious dogma in this church, but these marijuana missionaries are intent in on bringing ostracized stoners back into the fold.
By Beth Dalbey (Patch Staff) – September 19, 2016 10:05 pm ET
Congregants in this church aren’t high on Jesus. In fact, the very name of the church sounds like lyrics from a rock and (ahem) roll song or the backdrop for a classic Cheech and Chong movie.
It’s true that First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason’s sacrament might be a doobie or marijuana-infused brownie instead of the body and blood of Christ, and its dogma is steeped in giving thanks to the cannabis plant for its healing nature and the sense of well-being it gives users instead of Jesus’ sacrifices for sinners.
The church, made up of a congregation of mostly atheists and agnostics, made its debut in Lansing, Michigan, earlier this summer.
So, how can it be a church if its members eschew a higher power — beyond, that is, the feeling of euphoria they get from smoking pot or the satisfaction of using a sustainable crop for fuel and fiber?
“Well, the reality is it sounded better than a cannabis cult,” organizer Jeremy Hall told the Lansing State Journal after the congregation’s inaugural service last June that included time for fellowship and a potluck with “both medicated and non-medicated food.”
First Cannabis Church in Indiana
The First Church of Cannabis traces its roots to Indiana as a political statement in response to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, backed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, now Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s running mate.
Self-anointed Grand Poobah Bill Levin has made all sorts of glib proclamations, including the Deity Dozen, which is sort of like the Ten Commandments— for example, “Do not be a ‘troll’ on the internet, respect others without name calling and being vulgarly aggressive,” and “Treat your body as a temple. Do not poison it with poor quality foods and sodas.” Also, don’t be a jerk, or words to that effect.
There are also marijuana-based churches in Florida, Alabama, Oregon and Arizona. Many of them embrace organized religion to one extent or another, but Hall is more resolute in his iteration.
At the First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason in Michigan, it’s all cannabis, all the time — whether in its leafy tobacco form, as fiber for clothing, as a biofuel or for shelter, paper and plastics.
“It’s a miracle,” Hall told The Detroit News. “It can save humanity. Cannabis is something to be put on a pedestal, to be revered.”
What’s God Got To Do With It?
An ordained minister with the online Universal Life Church and a marijuana caregiver who originally hails from Ypsilanti, Hall moved back to Michigan from Tennessee in part because legal medical marijuana is available for treatment of his wife’s lupus.
He hopes congregants at the Lansing church can change attitudes about pot smokers with service projects around the city, like a recent cleanup at a Lansing park.
From his early youth indoctrinated in the Young Earth Creationist congregation — a fundamentalist church that rejected evolution and forbade the use of radios because it supposedly played the devil’s music — to his new role as the founder of the First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason, Hall has experienced both ends of the religious spectrum.
Though he rejected many of the tenets of his early teachings and other religions, he told The Detroit News he liked the fellowship aspect of church in general and the way a house of worship can gather in people who live on the margins. So he formed a church, taking God out of the equation.
Still, Hall’s church embodies the WWJD — “What would Jesus do?” — spirit more than you might think, even though it is not rooted in Christianity.
On a flyer seeking participants in a recent park cleanup, Hall acknowledged that pot smokers “have been demonized in the eyes of the public as miscreants and law breakers, ignorant and unmotivated.”
So, just as Jesus reached out to the disenfranchised, the church is a chance for Hall and his wife to reach out to people who have been “using cannabis and feeling ostracized” by their regular places of worship, Michigan Radio reported.
“We’re using our church to elevate the community and to show we aren’t a drain on society or a bunch of unmotivated criminals,” Hall told the Lansing State Journal.
Pot City, Michigan?
Not surprisingly, the church, located in the shadow of four medical marijuana dispensaries, has some detractors.
The Rejuvenating South Lansing citizens’ group, which wants more restrictions on dispensaries, worries the church further mainstreams marijuana use and will draw more users to the city.
“This is just another way they can do whatever they want,” Elaine Womboldt, the group’s founder, told The Detroit News. “We don’t want to be known as the pot city of Michigan.”
Also, at the first service earlier this summer, a lonely protester, Quaker traditionalist Rhonda Fuller, of Lansing, held a sign that warned the only people who benefit from marijuana are profiting financially from it: “It’s about money, not you. It’s misery for everyone else.”
Fuller told The Detroit News it’s unconscionable to call the First Church of Cannabis a church.
“Anyone can call anything a church,” she said. “It has nothing to do with Christianity — but neither does most churches.”