IE church that offers marijuana to members may be forced to close

Leticia Juarez Image
Thursday, August 23, 2018
IE church that offers marijuana to members may be forced to close
A Jurupa Valley church that uses marijuana as part of its practice may be forced to close because city officials believe it is illegally operating as a dispensary.

JURUPA VALLEY, Calif. (KABC) -- The Vault Church of Open Faith in Jurupa Valley may have to shut its doors.

A Riverside County judge recently granted the city the authority to close it.

"If they are a church they are a church, but they are also selling marijuana as a dispensary inside the church that is illegal under current city ordinances." said Gary Thompson, Jurupa Valley city manager.

But members of the church says they are not a dispensary and that marijuana is part of how they practice their faith.

"That is our sacrament the same way the Catholics have wine and bread for their sacrament," said Cesar.

Cesar, who says he is one of the church's ministers and did not want to provide his last name, says they being persecuted.

"City officials are not acting constitutional right now - them being the ones persecuting us instead of protecting our religious rights," he said.

While church members claim they are not a dispensary, Weedmap, an online site that identifies dispensaries, does list it as a cannabis business with a list of products for purchase.

Cesar says that's because the website does not offer a church designation. As for the marijuana for purchase that's so members can provide the minimum required donation or tithe for the sacrament.

City officials say it's all a front.

"Never heard of a church that sells their sacrament. So I have to assume the reason they are trying to be a church in this respect is to get around what the law says," says Thompson.

Thompson says in June voters approved a ban on commercial marijuana businesses. The city has been actively shutting down dispensaries within its limits since 2011.

He says he hopes the Vault Church will voluntarily shut down its marijuana operations.

"We have the order that we can close it and the lockout order also authorizes us to board the building up."