San Jose churches offer marijuana to members, feature pot-smoking Jesus in ads

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Two churches in San Jose that offer its members marijuana are being scrutinized by the city. Authorities say the churches are fronts for illegal dispensaries.

Inside Coachella Valley Church you'll find pews, an altar and pictures of Jesus. But you'll also find that "lighting up" is encouraged.

Volunteer Sebastian Grey was asked if it was a dispensary to which he replied, "We're a church."

Coachella Valley treats cannabis as a sacrament and said it is used there for religious purposes.

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

There's a lobby inside with a receptionist who is checking people in. Every member must be at least 18 years old.

After paying a donation, members are ushered into a chapel with pews where a video of a sermon is playing.

A woman, who was visiting from Colorado, signed up to be a member. Then, she bought two bottles of cannabis labeled as sativa. She said it cost 100 dollars for a quarter of sativa.

City officials have been investigating Coachella Valley Church as well as Oklevueha Native American Church, also known as ONAC, which also offers cannabis. Officials said it is illegal to sell or distribute cannabis without proper permits.

"Whatever their followers want to smoke, that's not the issue," San Jose city attorney Rick Doyle said. "It's the distribution and sale coming from the dispensary the church issue that just doesn't fly."

The city only allows 16 marijuana dispensaries to operate. Each pays 10 percent of its gross sales. Since neither church is permitted, it's not paying taxes to the city.

Doyle said a judge just signed an injunction to stop operating within the next 10 days. He said the city also plans on doing the same with Coachella Valley church.
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