Coachella Valley Church
Coachella Valley Church is a Rastafarian church in San Jose, California, which the city regards as a marijuana dispensary. It was incorporated in 2016 and is at the same location as a previous dispensary, Amsterdam's Garden. The city has a history of litigation against its operators and seeks to end their operations.
|Coachella Valley Church|
|Location||2142 The Alameda,
San Jose, California 95126
Coachella Valley Church describes itself as an Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church which is monotheistic, worships a single God referred to as Jah, and uses cannabis as a sacrament. The members, known as Coachellans, believe that the use of cannabis helps elevate people to a higher understanding of self and greater closeness to Jah—who members believe partially resides within each individual. They ritually use cannabis, which they call "God's Holy Healing Sacrament" to deepen love and livity. The church house on The Alameda has an altar, pews and sacred images "like any other Christian house of worship".
History and legal issues
The City of San Jose filed a complaint against the owners and operators of Amsterdam's Garden marijuana dispensary in May 2015 for zoning violations and for not conforming to city regulations on marijuana dispensaries. Amsterdam's Garden was reportedly owned and operated by Sacha Nemcov, who was part of a failed campaign in 2016 to allow for dispensaries all around the city. After the dispensary was shut down, Coachella Church of Cannabis, later renamed Coachella Valley Church, began operations at the same location with reportedly the same operators, including Nemcov (who also calls himself Donny Lords and Alex Nemcov, according to The San Jose Mercury News). Around November 2017, the operators stated that they were not legally a marijuana dispensary under city regulations but rather a church, and should be exempt from taxation, zoning and other regulations as a legitimate religious group under the United States Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) of 2000.
The city attorney of San Jose has said: "Whatever their followers want to smoke, that's not the issue. It's the distribution and sale coming from the dispensary." In 2017 the attorney said he would file an injunction to prevent cannabis sales on the church premises. By late December 2017, the injunction had not been granted; a hearing for a preliminary injunction was set for late January 2018.
- High Praise: Pot Churches Proliferate As States Ease Access To Marijuana, Kaiser Health News, retrieved 2018-01-22
- Coachella Valley Church, CA Sec of State, retrieved 2018-01-21
- The City of San Jose v. Victoria Foxx, Lawzilla.com, retrieved 2018-01-21
- Bay Area church claims religious exemption from local marijuana laws, thecannabist, retrieved 2018-01-21
- Lorraine Caballero (November 23, 2017), "California churches suspected of being illegal marijuana dispensaries", Christian Daily, Washington, DC
- Barbara Feder Ostrov (January 12, 2018), High praise: 'Pot churches' popping up around California, Pasadena: KPCC
- Baum, Julia (2017-11-04). "Church claims religious exemption from local pot laws". The Mercury News. San Jose, California. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
- Churches offer marijuana to members, feature pot-smoking Jesus in ads, Houston, Texas: KTRK-TV (ABC 13), November 21, 2017
- Ian Cull (November 21, 2017), San Jose Aims to Shutter Two Pot-Selling Churches, NBC Bay Area
- Barbara Feder Ostrov (December 22, 2017), "At 'pot churches', marijuana is the sacrament", USA Today
- Melina Delkic (November 21, 2017), "California churches offer 'joints for Jesus' as part of high-minded spiritual journey", Newsweek
- Benjamin Fearnow (November 19, 2017), "Silicon Valley Churches Pose As Marijuana Dispensaries To Sell Tax-Free Weed", International Business Times
- Tim Kohut (November 21, 2017), "Church Features Pot-Smoking Jesus In Ads: This might be the first recorded sighting of a pot-smoking Jesus in human history.", High Times