As part of WKAR's Marijuana in Michigan series, we’ve been highlighting the push to legalize marijuana in the state. In June 2016, the First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason held its first service in a dispensary in Lansing. On the heels of its one-year anniversary, WKAR’s Karel Vega paid a visit to the church at its new location.
On a sunny Thursday morning, I arrive at the First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason at their new location, on the grounds of Inner Ascended Masters Ministry. It’s a small building tucked into one of the more verdant stretches of South Washington Avenue in South Lansing. I'm greeted by Reverend Hall and one of the church's members. Inside, the walls of the church are adorned by shelves and bookcases - each one a little pocket that seems to highlight a different faith. I ask Reverend Hall, the 35 year-old leader of the church, what’s changed since that first service almost one year ago. Hall says it all started with a passing idea, but has now turned into a group doing community service in the name of cannabis.
“The main things that have changed have been the outlook of what we can do for the community. Like it started with just an idea. Like, 'hey, we’re gonna have some conversations and see what people think and see where this goes.' And now it’s really blossomed into kind of a family almost. Like, we have our core group of people that come to every service just about. They’re the ones that show up to all of our volunteer events, the ones that go out in the community. They’re collecting signatures or cleaning parks…”
Reverend Hall says he doesn’t keep an official registry of the members of the church. Some services may see up to 50 people coming out, but Hall says the core group consists of about 20. You may think, as the name of the church implies, that smoking marijuana would be the highlight of each service. But as Reverend Hall explains, that’s not the case.
“What we have during the first half an hour or so we have fellowship,” says Hall. “Basically everybody comes in, ‘how are you doing,’ catching up. And during that time, people will consume cannabis.”
Reverend Hall says the church does holds some legal recourse to allow anyone to smoke. They have some restrictions.
“We do limit it to medical card patients, just so that we can protect both the people who you know have this building and our organization as a whole,” says Hall. “Because we don’t want to do anything that’s illegal certainly. But we also don’t believe that legality dictates morality. So you know, we really think that if you wanna use this plant before my service you’re welcome to do so. We just request that it’s medical card holders only.”
Reverend Hall tells me services at the church don’t so much consist of religious teachings, but rather conversations about philosophy and how to better yourself and the community around you.
Community service appears to have evolved into one of the main pillars of the church. He tells me about the new program the church is developing to highlight charitable acts done by people who use cannabis.
“Our most immediate goal right now is to develop a website for our pay it forward program,” says Hall. “When we go out and do good deeds in the community ---we hand out pay it forward cards that basically say ‘hey, a cannabis user did something nice for you. Now, pass this card along and try to do something nice for someone else’ so to try to integrate cannabis as something positive in the community. ”
Aaron Ayres is the pastor and reverend of Inner Ascended Masters Ministry. He tells me how he brought these groups together.
“I attended a lot of different churches and I tried to have outreach for different faiths bringing in a true interfaith and time after time after time it was just very difficult to create that kind of environment in an already established belief system,” says Ayres. “So we kind of branched out on our own. I became ordained, branched out on my own, and started a place that is open to all of those people…”
Inner Ascended Masters Ministry, the building where the church holds their services is a multi-use facility.
Just down a small path from the entrance to the church are walking trails, which were built by the members of the different groups that come together at Inner Ascended Masters Ministry. A little to the north is the church’s community food garden.
Along for the tour was one of the members of the church. Jason Durham, details the harrowing event that led to him finding healing through marijuana. In October 2014, he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident.
“October 1, 2014, I was riding my motorcycle,” says Durham. “I was going around a bend and somebody came, left the center. And to avoid a head on collision with a car, I swerved around the car. I lost control and hit a guardrail.”
Durham was found by a passing driver, when he woke up he was in a full body cast. He was put on opiates to manage the pain. His spine was infused in two places. Depressed and becoming dependent on prescription drugs. That all changed when a friend brought him cannabis edibles to try.
“I noticed that after an hour I could get up I was active,” says Durham. “I wasn’t depressed, and I actually had the swelling and the inflammation was cut down to the point where I could get up and move around. From then on it just changed my life. I’ve just been pro cannabis for the medical benefits of it”
Durham is a full time cannabis activist. He’s currently working on a documentary film to change public perception of marijuana use.
“Cannabis has given me my active life back. It’s given me my freedom to get out and be mobile. And you know, I’m not a stoner. I’m an active cannabis user who is a productive member of the community. And there are several more out- there who are. And people need to look more at the positive light”
The church holds service on the last Sunday of every month, and Reverend Hall stresses that no matter what faith you subscribe to. All are welcome at the First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason.
”If you’re at all interested, you don’t have to be a card holder to attend,” says Hall. “You just come on out listen to what I have to say, participate in the discussion and meet some cool people. And I think you’d be pleasantly surprised at what we talk about.”
The First Cannabis Church of logic and reason holds service on the last Sunday of each month. This month, the service is will be postponed because the members of the church will be traveling to The High Time’s cannabis cup in Clio, Michigan.