Authorities are investigating two churches in San Jose that are being scrutinized for being fronts for illegal dispensaries. The San Jose Church, Coachella Valley Church encourages its members to light up amongst the pews and images of Jesus.
Coachella Valley treats cannabis as a sacrament and says it is used there for religious purposed. When asked if the church was a dispensary, volunteer Sebastian Grey replied, “we’re a church.”
“It’s just a 10-dollar donation to be part of the church and then you’re a lifetime member,” he said. “You’re able to show your ID, we’ll get you checked in and you can go in the back to purchase products.”
After paying their donation, members are ushering into a chapel where a video of a sermon is playing. They are then able to purchase cannabis from within the church.
The Church also has a wacky ad explaining the way it works. You can watch it here:
Their website claims, “Our Rastafarian Cannabis Church in San Jose is not politically originated, and we support no political organization, or commercial institution, seeing that religion, politics, and commerce are the three unclean spirits which separate the people from their God.”
However, Coachella Valley is not the only San Jose church that has been selling cannabis from within its sacred walls.
City officials have been investigating Oklevueha Native American Church (also known as ONAC) as well as Coachella Valley. ONAC also offers marijuana to its members. It is illegal to sell or distribute cannabis without proper permits.
Officials are insistent that it not the act of smoking marijuana that they take issue with, but the sale of it from an unlicensed operation.
“Whatever their followers want to smoke, that’s not the issue,” San Jose city attorney Rick Doyle said. “It’s the distribution and sale coming from the dispensary the church issue that just doesn’t fly.”
The city of San Jose only allows 16 marijuana dispensaries to operate. Each dispensary is required to pay 10% of its gross sales in taxes to the city. As neither of the churches are technically permitted, they are also not paying any taxes.
A judge has signed an injunction to stop ONAC from operating within the next 10 days. Doyle also announced that the city plans to do the same with Coachella Valley Church.
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