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International Church of Cannabis
Church building in 2018
TypeCannabis-based new religious movement
RegionUnited States
HeadquartersDenver, Colorado
OriginApril 20, 2017
Congregations1 (Washington Park, Denver)
Official websiteelevationists.org

The International Church of Cannabis is a religious organization in Denver that uses cannabis as a sacrament. Members claim the use of cannabis helps elevate people to a higher understanding of self.[1][2]

The chapel headquarters, a converted old church painted by contemporary artists, opened its doors on April 20, 2017.[3] No cannabis consumption is allowed during times the church is open to the public;[4][5] celebrations of the "sacrament of cannabis" are held for members only.[6][7]


Members of the International Church of Cannabis are known as Elevationists. They ritually use "the sacred flower" of cannabis to accelerate and deepen self-discovery. A member is considered awakened when their cannabis experience becomes transcendental in nature. Elevationism claims no divine law and no unquestionable doctrine; it adheres to no specific dogma while following the Golden Rule.[4][2]

Since 420 is a significant number for cannabis culture, the church opened its doors on April 20,[2] inviting members to partake cannabis at 4:20 p.m.[1] Celebration of the "sacrament of cannabis" is the regular church service, held each Friday.[6] The symbol of the church is a set of interlocking triangles.[5]

Ritual use of cannabis is not a modern invention, as it appeared in several world religions over a period of 3,000 years.[8] The International Church of Cannabis is one of several modern religious organizations that consider cannabis a sacrament.[6]

In May 2017 the church announced it would begin offering wedding services in a "cannabis-friendly" environment.[9]

The Church is open to the public and offers a daily light show and meditation called "Beyond" which has become the highest rated tourist attraction in Denver. Beyond is a guided meditation that utilizes cutting edge lights and lasers which are 3D mapped to the mural on the ceiling of the church.[10][11]


Members of any religion can become Elevationists without the need to convert, since Elevationism is seen as a supplement rather than a replacement to existing faith. The only restriction is that persons under 21 years of age are not allowed into the church when cannabis is being burned.[4] The church does not have a formal hierarchy.[2]

The church's membership increased to 200 people from around 50 on the opening week after increased media attention.[1] It allegedly grew to 500 in the subsequent two weeks.[5]

Legal status

Elevation Ministries, the religious nonprofit organization behind the church,[1] was formally established in Colorado in September 2016.[12][13][14]

Although Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012,[15] smoking in public spaces remains banned. All ritual cannabis use at the church is by invitation only.[5] The church does not sell marijuana.[2] On the federal level, Elevationism is protected by constitutional religious freedom as long as it is considered an authentic religious belief.[16]

On the day the church opened in 2017 state Representative Dan Pabon proposed banning cannabis consumption in churches. Pabon confirmed his move was inspired by the International Church of Cannabis. However, members of both parties in the House concluded it would be an unconstitutional restriction on religion; they rejected his proposal and the amendment was not formally introduced.[1][17][18]

Church building

The church is housed in a 113-year-old structure in Denver's Washington Park neighborhood:[2] a converted Lutheran church,[19] formerly known as Mount Calvary Apostolic Church.[17] The church property was purchased in July 2015 by a company co-owned by church co-founder Steve Berke and his parents with the intention to turn it into apartments. However, Berke's colleagues and friends, who later became co-founding members of the church, convinced him, and eventually the company, to establish a new church in lieu of converting the building into condos.[12] An Indiegogo campaign to fund repairs on the building raised $40,000.[20] Renovations began July 2016.[21]

Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel painted the colorful surrealist interior with geometric neon colors and images of animals; the artist had previously painted abandoned churches in Spain and Morocco.[22] American artist Kenny Scharf painted the façade with graffiti-inspired murals.[5]

In March 2017, Elevation Ministries established a two-year licensing and management agreement with Bang Digital Media, a publicly traded company founded by church co-founder Steve Berke, which does marketing work for the cannabis industry.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Jacey Fortin (April 20, 2017), "Marijuana on Religious Grounds? A Cannabis Church Opens in Denver", The New York Times
  2. ^ a b c d e f Blumberg, Antonia (21 April 2017). "Step Inside The Technicolor World Of The International Church Of Cannabis". The Huffington Post.
  3. ^ Zach Harris (April 13, 2017), "Denver's New "International Church of Cannabis" Will Open for Worship on 4/20", Merry Jane
  4. ^ a b c "About Us". Elevationists.
  5. ^ a b c d e Kane, Laura (3 May 2017). "Puff, puff, pray: Inside Colorado's International Church of Cannabis". Times Colonist.
  6. ^ a b c Warner, Joel (26 April 2017). "Getting High and Holy at the International Church of Cannabis". Men's Journal.
  7. ^ Alex Pasquariello (April 21, 2017), "Denver cannabis church's debut doesn't go exactly as planned", The Cannabist, Denver Post
  8. ^ Ferrara, Mark S. (2016). Sacred Bliss: A Spiritual History of Cannabis. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 7–9. ISBN 9781442271913.
  9. ^ Garrison, Robert (10 May 2017). "Denver's International Church of Cannabis now offering 'weed weddings'". The Denver Channel.
  10. ^ "International Church of Cannabis". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  11. ^ Fisch, Devin (3 April 2023). "Beyond Light Show At The International Church of Cannabis". 303 Magazine. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  12. ^ a b Brennan, Noel (13 April 2017). "The International Church of Cannabis has arrived in Denver". 9 News.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ a b Alex Pasquariello (April 12, 2017), "Following the paper trail of The International Church of Cannabis", The Cannabist, Denver Post
  14. ^ Nagels, Philipp (24 April 2017). "Das musst du über die neu gegründete Cannabis-Kirche wissen". Die Welt (in German).
  15. ^ Smith, Aaron (8 November 2012). "Marijuana legalization passes in Colorado, Washington". CNN.
  16. ^ Forsythe, Jerilyn (18 April 2017). "The International Church of Cannabis Opens 4/20". 5280 Magazine.
  17. ^ a b "The Latest: Colorado rejects attempt to ban pot churches". Fox News. 20 April 2017.
  18. ^ "Colorado House rejects late attempt to bar pot use in churches". The Denver Post. 20 April 2017.
  19. ^ Sholl, Alice (17 April 2017). "The International Church of Cannabis is about to open its doors". Metro.
  20. ^ Gerson, Avi. "The International Church of Cannabis". IndieGoGo.
  21. ^ Chris Perez (April 12, 2017), "'Church of Cannabis' will open on 4/20 — of course", The New York Post
  22. ^ Bathgate, Rae (9 June 2017). "The Michelangelo of Cannabis - Meet Artist Okuda San Miguel". 303 Magazine.

External links

39°42′33″N 104°58′56″W / 39.7092°N 104.9823°W / 39.7092; -104.9823