Oakland Church Donating Cannabis and Psychedelic Mushrooms as Communion Sues Police Raid

An East Oakland church that distributes cannabis and psychedelic plants as a sacrament filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department during a 2020 police raid.

Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants, an assembly of the Church of Ambrose, filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that the city, the police department and a police officer violated its 1st and 14th Amendment rights and the code of City land use prohibits the group from conducting religious ceremonies and sacraments involving psychedelics and cannabis inside the church.

The lawsuit stems from an incident in which police raided the Zide Door Church at 1216 10th Ave. on August 13, 2020, following allegations that the church operated as a dispensary. Officer John Romero said the church was listed as a commercial cannabis dispensary on the open-source website Weedmaps, and the Oakland Office of Nuisance Abatement received an anonymous complaint in May 2019 that the church served as a dispensary.

The police department said it does not comment on ongoing litigation. Atty of the city of Oakland. Barbara Parker said her office had not yet received a trial as of Wednesday afternoon.

The church denies its location was identified on the website and says it does not advertise its religious practices, meaning the only ways people could find out are through video presentations of its services. or by word of mouth, depending on the complaint. The church also said members pay a monthly fee of $5 and donate in order to obtain cannabis and mushrooms, which are grown by the church.

The lawsuit says Romero applied to join the church under a false name and using an invalid or forged California driver’s license. Romero reportedly signed a membership agreement acknowledging that the church does not operate as a dispensary, joined as a monthly member, and purchased 3.5 grams of cannabis buds, which the church says are intended to be consumed on site and are not for personal use or individual use.

Romero searched the church, damaging five safes and seizing documents, inventory records, $200,000 worth of cannabis and mushroom products, a computer and cash totaling over $4,500, according to the complaint.

The church, which preaches against non-religious alcohol and drug use, was established in Oakland in January 2019. She says she cannot legally practice her religious beliefs because Oakland’s municipal code requires a city ​​permits for the operation of businesses and establishments, and because the religious use of entheogenic plants, including cannabis, is not permitted under Oakland land use regulations, according to the trial.

The complaint also referenced Resolution 87731, passed by the Oakland City Council on June 4, 2019, which prohibits the city and police department from using city funds to enforce laws criminalizing the use and possession of entheogenic plants.

Church founder Dave Hodges said before the COVID-19 pandemic, he led sermons weekly in the Oakland building and handed out joints to members before the service began. He pointed out that the mushrooms are meant to be taken offsite, where members won’t have to drive for at least eight hours after consumption. Members are not limited to the amount of sacrament they can receive.

“It’s not just an excuse to sell drugs,” Hodges said. “It’s a sincere faith, and the work that I personally do with mushrooms is in very high doses. There is no doubt in my mind that mushrooms were the first way our ancient ancestors understood that there was more to this existence.

Surveillance video shared with The Times showed around half a dozen officers, some armed, approaching the church gates. Security guards hired by the church come out with their hands up. Several firefighters then broke into a safe inside the church using what appears to be an electric saw.

“They attacked us like we were some kind of crime family that they were tearing down or a meth house,” Hodges said. “They came armed with guns, which they didn’t need to do. They could have accomplished the same thing with two officers without their weapons drawn. It was a classic smash-and-grab scenario where they took our sacrament, they took our money, and they never filed a complaint.

Hodges also referenced Oakland’s Cannabis Regulations and Revenue Ordinance, also known as Measure Z, which was passed in 2004 and required the city to establish a system to license, regulate and tax cannabis for adult use. Hodges said that since the order was approved, Romero has waged a “smash-and-grabs” campaign on Measure Z clubs, which caused the business to shut down for a few weeks before reopening. Around the time the Zide Door Church was raided, Hodges said, at least four clubs had been raided.

The church is seeking a permanent injunction requiring the city to approve its land use application and exempt religious use of entheogenic plants as part of the application process.

“We would like the Oakland PD to leave us alone and the City of Oakland to see us as legit,” Hodges said.

Los Angeles Times

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