When most people think of going to church, the last thing that comes to their mind is lighting up a joint as part of the service. But at one church in Birmingham, Alabama, many leading members of the congregation make it a point to emphasize the benefits of using cannabis.
Janice Rushing, the President of the Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light in Alabana says cannabis i an important medication in her life:
“I smoke cannabis on a daily basis for my pain. If I did not, I’d be on pain pills.”
In fact, at one event recently held at the church, the congregation listening to several speakers come up and talk about the potential health benefits of legalizing marijuana in the state of Alabama. They discussed skin conditions, sleep disorders, cancer and many other ailments. One member of the church proclaimed:
“The medical establishment took away cannabis so they could sell us pills.”
Not all of the ailments members of the church suggest marijuana can treat have been proven, but they are no doubt right about many of the plant’s medical benefits. But they also think it has spiritual benefits as well:
One member, Chris Rushing, stood in the pulpit at the church discussing the spiritual benefits of not only marijuana, but also psychedelic substances as well:
“That is God’s way of turning out brain on. These entheogen work like tool to open up spaces and pathways of the mind. Yet it’s illegal. We all walk around producing natural chemicals that do the same”
The church enjoys a religious exemption from laws against some hallucinogens that are associated with the Native American spiritual traditions. Members have a special designated photo ID as part of their church membership which legally protects their use of substances.
It isn’t the only church of its kind in the U.S., and it’s helping in leading the fight for the rights of religious groups that use mind-altering substances as part of their spiritual practices.