California churches suspected of being illegal marijuana dispensaries

Authorities in San Jose, California, are investigating two churches that are said to offer marijuana to its members, as they are suspected of being illegal pot dispensaries despite their religious front and claims that they are houses of worship.

(REUTERS / Henry Romero / File Photo)A participant smokes a marijuana joint during the Global Marijuana March 2017, in support of the legalization of marijuana in Mexico City, Mexico, May 6, 2017.

Like any other Christian house of worship, Coachella Valley Church has an altar, pews, and images of Jesus. However, its members are allegedly encouraged to smoke marijuana and view cannabis as an item they use for their religious practices, ABC 13 reported.

"We're a church," volunteer Sebastian Grey insisted. "It's just a $10 donation to be part of the church and then you're a lifetime member ... you're able to show your ID, we'll get you checked in, and you can go in the back, purchase products."

To be a member of the Coachella Valley Church, one has to be at least 18 years old. The establishment has a lobby where a receptionist registers people and guides them into a chapel to watch a sermon being played on video.

City authorities are also looking into the Oklevueha Native American Church over a similar suspicion of it being a front for an illegal marijuana dispensary. Officials said smoking pot was not the issue and explained that the distribution of cannabis without sufficient permits was illegal.

San Jose's city attorney, Rick Doyle, said an injunction had already been acquired from a judge for ONAC to stop its operations. Authorities are going to do the same with Coachella Valley Church.

Earlier this month, deputies raided an illegal marijuana dispensary in La Puente, Los Angeles, which had disguised itself as a church. Sgt. Pat Morris said they had arrested a man and a woman and confiscated around 3 pounds of marijuana as well as 4-5 pounds of marijuana products, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

The Citadel Church of La Puente at 15500 block of Amar Road, advertised itself online as a medical marijuana dispensary. It also claimed that its members believe in God and invited people to "rejoice, confess, receive forgiveness and serve" with them.