Nobody who followed the case of the International Church of Cannabis in Denver, Colorado, will be surprised to hear that Steve Berke, one of the church’s founders, has been found guilty of open and public consumption of marijuana and violating the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act.
The Church which brands itself as a members only religious organization aims help people discover the best version of themselves by way of the sacred plant.
Through ritual, guided by spiritual practice, church members use the sacred flower to reveal the best version of self, discover a creative voice and enrich their community with the fruits of that creativity.
Members, called Elevationists, require no converting to Elevationistm, nor does the church claim any divine law, doctrine or authoritarian structure. They believe that ritual cannabis use can accelerate the individual spiritual journey, the search for meaning and self-discovery.
The members believe it is their right to partake their sacrament together [the sacred plant] and should not be thought of as criminals for honoring their religious traditions.
The church is open for public visits and boosts several tens of reviews on Yelp.
— Carl Sagan
On April 20, 2017, the official opening of the church, an undercover agent entered the church for its invite-only event, without in fact being invited. This allowed prosecutors to argue that the event was in fact a public, rather than a private one, and that the marijuana consumed during the Church’s opening was used “openly and publicly”.
Berke, and his two co-founders, Lee Molloy and Briley Hale, were cited.
After two long years, including a mistrial in 2018, the municipal trial finally took place last week and lasted 4 days.
Steven Berke was eventually found guilty of both charges, public marijuana consumption and violating the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act last week. He was fined $50 (fifty) and $21 in court costs.
Berke’s co-founders are due in court on February 12.
“I don’t know how the city attorneys can claim victory because they spent tens of thousands of dollars and they’ve now collected a $50 fine.”
“I don’t know if taxpayers are furious about this, but I’m a taxpayer, and I would be furious if I knew that the city attorney spent four days trying somebody for a maximum $100 fine.”
— Steve Berke, founder International Church of Cannabis Denver, Colorado
Berke said he is considering appealing. Judge Johnny C. Barajas said after the verdict that in his 20 years spanning career he had never seen a municipal trial last 4 days.
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