There are certain terms you just don't expect to see put together. For many, "church of cannabis" is a phrase made up of these seemingly antithetical terms. Not only does a church of cannabis exist, but there are also multiple across North America. Residents of the United States are probably more familiar with the controversy surrounding Denver's International Church of Cannabis, but may not be aware of a hugely successful organization from our neighbors to the North: the Sanctuary of the Rastafarian Order Ministry.
What is the Rastafarian Order Ministry?
From an attendance-only standpoint, the Sanctuary of the Rastafarian Order Ministry could be classified as a megachurch. From that point on, the similarities end completely. The Rastafarian Order Ministry is the first Rastafarian church registered by the Canadian government. From a government standpoint, the Ministry is a legitimate religious organization with some unorthodox activities.
What Does the Ministry Believe In?
Ok, so there's a church of cannabis. That's all well and good, but nearly everyone who hears about the church is curious as to the doctrine they practice. Be prepared to stay curious, because there's no official religion attached to the church. While it's called the Rastafarian Order Ministry and its founder ascribes to the Rastafarian religion, members of the church are free to practice whatever religion they feel like (including none at all). In fact, one of the church's taglines is "Where you don't have to share our convictions to be our friends".
It's apparent this lenient, dogma-free structure is attracting many cannabis enthusiasts to the organization. This church is proud to claim a membership more than 5,000 strong-despite being based in a town with just over 250,000 residents. You don't need to do the math to know that's a rate of church attendance far above the national average for both Canada and the United States. Anyone over the age of 19 can join, and the rainbow of demographics shows all types of people are happy to do so.
Where Does the Weed Come In?
According to Rastafarian belief, cannabis is used as a sacrament which cleanses the body and mind, and heals the soul. In practice, this means any member of this church of cannabis can come in and receive a "sacrament" in return for a donation. While the church does run services with a sermon and everything, it's not a required aspect of membership. In fact, the congregation room is barely big enough to hold 20 people-so it's safe to say most people are in it for the pot-related perks.
Hang On, How is This Legal?
On April 15th, 2015, Jamaica's Governor approved an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act for Rastas, allowing for the sacramental use of cannabis. While Canada will legalize cannabis on October 17, 2018, the founder of the Rastafarian Order Ministry decided to move forward with his organization on the grounds that Canada and Jamaica are both Commonwealth countries and so if it works in Jamaica it should work in Canada.
That's not to say the church hasn't had its share of troubles. In June, 2015-almost immediately after the Jamaican approval of cannabis plant sacraments-the church's grow site received a visit from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in the form of an aggressive and unannounced raid. 15 people were arrested, including founder Davidacus Holmes. They were held for four hours, but weren't charged. When the cops let them go, however, all the church's equipment had disappeared with the officers. But since then, the cannabis church has operated ini complete peace in their suburban strip-mall location.
Who's Behind this Concept?
Davidacus Holmes is a dedicated Rastafarian, whose love for cannabis led to a sustained movement in Canada. His story is a fascinating one, and it's led him to a variety of astonishing achievements, including a patent for wireless verification of devices and networks, an honorary degree from Oxford University, and a side job in editing for movies. The kicker? Holmes didn't learn to read until age 35.
His unusual streak continues even within his family, as one of his sisters is a justice of the peace, and another who is a judge. Even his daughter is on the right side of the law, working as a police officer.
Holmes is also the mastermind behind the Rastafarian Order Ministry's sacrament supply. The 50,000 square foot grow facility is located in British Columbia, grown using Holmes' exacting standards to grow potent indica, sativa, and hybrid strains. There's no worry about pesticides here, as the only non-natural thing they use on the plants is structured water. This all-natural approach certainly works, as consumers of the strain Black Tuna can attest. This strain was developed during Holmes' tenure at a medical marijuana facility, and is one of the highest-THC cannabis strains available.
Other Cannabis Churches to Check Out
While the Sanctuary of the Rastafarian Order Ministry is the largest church of cannabis, there are others trying to gain a following. To find out more about cannabis churches in the U.S., check out our article on cannabis churches.