'Cannabis Church' Raid Prompts Lawsuit

By Ceylan Pumphrey, Esq. on March 12, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Religion has been around for thousands of years, leading to many well-established religions. But over time, less conventional and less established religions have also sprouted up, such as Pastafarianism. Another less established religion belongs to members of the Hundred Harmonies Association of Faith, a "cannabis church" in La Puente, California.

According to the church's head minister, the cannabis is vital and central to the church's religious beliefs. However, when cannabis is central to your religion, it's likely that you'll have an uphill battle with police accepting your religion. And, this church was not immune -- police raided the church on November 15, 2017. The "cannabis church" has decided to fight back: it recently filed a lawsuit against the sheriff's department, city, and county claiming violations of religious freedom.

Church or Dispensary?

The president of Association of Sacramental Ministries, Alanna Reeves, said that the raid occurred after a priest from a "larger and more established religion" went to Hundred Harmonies where he "chastised its members and demanded it close." During the raid, officials say they found "a dispensary selling marijuana, concentrated cannabis such as marijuana wax, various marijuana packaging and edibles such as the likes of chocolate bars."

Mike Cindrich, the attorney representing the church stated that "[a] church is not a marijuana dispensary simply because it believes cannabis is its religious sacrament." Further, he stated that "[s]tate and federal law protect minority religions from discrimination and preferring a church that has alcohol as its sacrament is simply wrong."

According to church leaders, deputies damaged property, broke equipment, and "took cannabis sacrament used by members in religious ceremonies." More specifically, deputies seized marijuana valued at up to $30,000.

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