A group of members of the International Cannabis Church face an accusation of marijuana use inside a church
Steve Berke, co-founder of The International Church of Cannabis is fighting a 2017 minor charge of open and public use of cannabis. He will be in a Denver courtroom nest Tuesday.
The maximum fine in this case is $300. However, cannabis experts are watching this case from a different point of view that has been confusing weed smokers since cannabis was legalized. What is considered “open and public” marijuana consumption?
This case has been creating different technical problems that created a situation in which prosecutors were not able to seat a jury.
It all began in April 20, 2017 when the Denver police broke in a church’s private celebration during which some of the more than 200 attendees smoked marijuana in special places for consumption.
Denver police issued citations to Berke, Lee Molloy and Briley Hale: the three founders of the Church. They are accused of open and public consumption of cannabis and violating the Colorado Clean Indoor Act.
The International Church of Cannabis says marijuana is the primary sacrament and the members host services once a week. The members call themselves “Elevationists” and they consume the “sacred flower” to show the best version of human beings and enrich their people with the fruits of the creativity.
Already in March 2018, a judge declared mistrial because the prosecutors were not able to get a six-person jury. The potential members of the jury openly declined the trial and questioned city attorney Rebekah Watada’s theory of the case. Basically, they questioned the reason why their taxes had to be spent on minor cases like this. Another potential member of the jury asked how was possible that seven policemen were on the witness list for a misdemeanor marijuana charge. They all thought it was absurd spending so much money and resources for this absurd case.
Steve Berke said he thought it was an incredible waste of money and time. He was quite surprised the city spends taxpayer money to prosecute them.
Denver city offered him a deal this week according to which he could plead to the civil infraction and pay “his crime” with community services. But he refused the proposal.
He expects to be vindicated because, among other reasons, he did not smoke marijuana because he was hosting the event.
The city attorney’s office refused to comment on it. But Berke is considering a lawsuit against the city because he lost a lot of money since the police raid occurred. The 114-year old Church hosts weddings and private events.