LANSING — An organization that finds spiritual meaning in marijuana use has found a new home at an existing church building on the city's south side
The First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason, led by Rev. Jeremy Hall, will begin holding services at Inner Ascended Masters Ministry, 5705 S. Washington Ave. on April 30. Hall describes the agreement the church has with the ministry as "cross promotion of their business."
According to Hall, the Cannabis Church seeks not only enlighten its parishioners with an all-inclusive, non-denominational philosophy, but also to inspire them to be politically involved. The church is expected to push against a proposed city ordinance aimed at regulating medical marijuana establishments. City officials estimate there are as many as 70 currently open.
Hall said the church may try to declare Lansing's marijuana establishments religious affiliates to give them legal protection from the ordinance.
"The biggest trouble the city would have is proving that it's not a religious establishment," Hall said. "If we're going to be considered a marijuana establishment, then you would have to consider a Catholic church that serves wine a bar."
As of Thursday afternoon, it was unclear how the City Attorney's Office, Lansing's three-member council committee and state officials currently define what Cannabis Church is. Messages left with City Attorney Jim Smiertka weren't returned. Andrea Bitely, a spokesperson for State Attorney General Bill Schutte's office, wrote Thursday in an email the office is "not involved" with the church.
City Council's Committee on Public Safety reviewed Tuesday draft 6B of a proposed ordinance that would allow medical marijuana establishments like dispensaries to be open only if they followed strict zoning requirements. A medical marijuana establishment, under the city's most recent draft of the ordinance, is defined as any provisioning center, grower facility, safety compliance facility, processor facility or secure transporter.
Mayor Virg Bernero has maintained a liberal stance on marijuana establishments. On Wednesday, Bernero shared on his Facebook page a link to a New York Times story about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's legislation to legalize recreational marijuana.
Bernero's response: "Once again, our neighbors to the north are getting it right. Prohibition with regard to marijuana is an abject failure. Education, regulation and taxation is the way to go. Pot for Potholes!"
Cannabis Church's services allow only those with state-registered patient cards to possess marijuana and marijuana-infused products, Hall said. The church attracts about 15 to 20 members to each service, and drew about 50 at its first gathering on June 26. Previous services were held at Lansing Herbal Farmers Market on Southland Avenue near Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
Hall describes marijuana as "a spiritual enlightenment tool," but said its use isn't a requirement for church membership.
"The motto that we have is that everybody in the circle is family." Hall said.
State laws are expected to change in December once the the state establishes a system to issue licenses for commercial establishments. Once the state law takes effect, they won't require any municipality to allow any dispensaries or other establishments. The city, however, is expected to allow them if they are licensed with the City Clerk's Office.