HASH(0x292dc1c)

Puff, puff, pray: Inside Colorado’s International Church of Cannabis

Puff, puff, pray: Inside Denver's cannabis church

DENVER — Walk into Denver’s International Church of Cannabis, and even the sober might feel a little bit stoned.

Master Spanish pop artist Okuda San Miguel transformed the 113-year-old chapel into an eye-popping mixture of rainbow-coloured geometric shapes and psychedelic bird-human creatures.

“People typically walk up here and their mouths fall open,” said church co-founder Lee Molloy, sitting in a pew surrounded by the stunning murals.

The church came first and the religion came second. Steve Berke, one of the founders, enlisted help from his parents to purchase the historic building, which cost over $1 million, Molloy said.

At first they weren’t sure what to do with it. They mused about turning it into condominiums, or a “mansion for a Broncos player,” Molloy said, before they finally settled on using the church as it was intended — well, sort of.

They call it Elevationism. The basic principle is that using cannabis allows worshippers to achieve the best version of themselves.

“We don’t pretend to know the mind of God. I’m not going to tell you what to do. I have nowhere near enough arrogance in me to be able to do that,” said Molloy, wearing the church’s interlocking-triangle symbol around his neck.

“It’s about self-discovery, going on your own spiritual journey. This is really a place in which you can safely do that — congregate with other like-minded people and find your best version of yourself.”

The church opened this year on April 20, the annual day of celebration for weed enthusiasts. Since then, membership has increased from 50 to 500, said Molloy, and a steady stream of visitors has been traipsing through to admire the trippy space.

The public is welcome between noon and 3 p.m. Monday to Friday to enjoy the stunning murals and to sit and meditate. Even though there’s no consumption during those hours, the church only allows people over the age of 21, the minimum age for using cannabis in Colorado.

“You basically do the same things you do in any other church, just without the guys in the weird black outfits,” said Molloy.

On the weekends, the church holds members-only events where using marijuana is allowed. Smoking pot in public is banned in the state, so transforming the building into a private space where only members are invited is crucial to getting around the law.

Membership is free, but Molloy said the church is fundraising online and welcomes donations. There’s also a gift shop downstairs, in a kitschy congregation space decorated with large Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines and an original Space Invaders arcade game.

From the outside, the church would be indistinguishable from any other place of worship in Denver, if it weren’t for hallucinatory graffiti-inspired murals painted by American artist Kenny Scharf.

The church hasn’t arrived in Denver without controversy. The day it opened, Dan Pabon, a Democrat in the state’s House of Representatives, tried to add an amendment banning cannabis consumption in churches to a bill.

But some of Pabon’s fellow representatives argued that the amendment would be an unconstitutional restriction on religion, and it was scuttled, The Denver Post reported.

Molloy dismisses a suggestion that because the founders purchased the church before coming up with Elevationism, the religion isn’t legitimate.

“It’s irrelevant to me what other people think about this. We’re doing what we’re doing. It’s for real,” he said. “It’s a very serious undertaking. In time, it’ll prove itself.”

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Blowing snow, slippery sections on Okanagan Connector

Compact snow in Highway 97 from Pennask Summitt to Brenda Mines.

IH adds immunization clinic Sunday in Kelowna

Drop-in meningococcal vaccination clinic on today at Community Health & Services Centre

Drivers see some slippery, slushy conditions

Snow in Kelowna Saturday night and into Sunday has made for cautious drivers and pedestrians.

Kelowna’s Gospel Mission serves annual Christmas dinner

Between 700 to 800 meals were served Saturday to the community

All aboard the Summerland Christmas Express

The first train of the Summerland Christmas Express schedule.

Suzuki: Shine a light during dark times

People need to remain positive despite difficult and unpredictable political climate

B.C. anti-hate campaigner finds Google search on his efforts redirects to porn

Text from online news article about Cran Campbell being used to link to suspect websites

Summerland’s Justin Kripps completes first double-medal weekend of career

High-powered Canadian bobsledders celebrate four-man silver at World Cup in Igls

‘The Last Jedi’ opens with $220M, 2nd best weekend all-time

As anticipated, the movie fell shy of the opening weekend for J.J. Abrams’ 2015 franchise reboot

Chiefs get weekend split

Kelowna falls to Chase Friday in KIJHL action, then rebounds to beat the Knights

2 couples tie the knot in Australia’s 1st same-sex weddings

West Australian couple Anne Sedgwick, Lyn Hawkins have been together for 40 years

Car flips on roof in West Kelowna

With snow covered roads, a driver and his vehicle leave the road at Louie Drive

B.C. concert promoter bans Nazi symbols at shows

A man was witnessed making a Nazi salute during a heavy metal show at Pub 340

Most Read