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Oakland Psychedelic Church that Was Raided is Suing

Ed Knight

By Ed Knight

August 17, 2022

illustration of magic mushrooms with foliage in the background

iStock

An Oakland church filed a lawsuit against the city on Friday, asserting that law enforcement crossed the line during a 2020 raid centered around the distribution of psychedelic mushrooms. 

The Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants alleges that “the city, police department and a police officer violated its 1st and 14th amendment rights and that the city’s land use code prohibits the group from conducting religious ceremonies and sacraments involving psychedelics and cannabis inside its church,”

.

The impetus for the lawsuit is an August 13, 2020, raid on the church conducted by Oakland police predicated on allegations that Zide Door was operating as a dispensary. 

The lawsuit asserts that the raid was orchestrated by a police officer named John Romero, who “applied for church membership under a false name and using an invalid or forged California driver’s license,” according to the Los Angeles Times. 

“Romero allegedly signed a membership agreement acknowledging that the church isn’t operating as a dispensary, joined as a monthly member and bought 3.5 grams of cannabis buds, which the church says is intended to be consumed on-site and isn’t for personal or individual use,” the Times reports. “Romero searched the church, damaging five safes and seizing paperwork, inventory logs, cannabis and mushroom products, a computer and cash totaling more than $4,500, according to the complaint.”

Zide Door’s pastor and co-founder, Dave Hodges, has insisted from the start that the church is no dispensary.

, the church, founded in 2019, “preaches against non-religious alcohol and drug use,” and it claims in the lawsuit that “because of Oakland’s Municipal Code that requires a permit from the city for operation of businesses and establishments, and because religious use of entheogenic plants, including cannabis, is not permitted use under Oakland’s land use regulations, the church can’t legally practice its religious beliefs.”

that the suit “outlined what it calls the ‘sacramental use’ of cannabis, mushrooms and other hallucinogenic substances as a way to connect with ‘a higher consciousness, their own eternal souls, spiritual beings and God.’”

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Planning the Psychedelic Church Raid

The raid was more than a year in the making.

, citing a May 2019 affidavit, “the city received a complaint that the church was operating as a cannabis dispensary without a permit,” and then, in August 2020, “an undercover police officer showed up at the church, became a member and exchanged money for pot.”

The raid went down only days later.

Hodges recalled the raid in an interview earlier this summer with

.

“I was about five minutes away from the church when I got a call that the cops were there. They were still clearing people out of the building when I arrived. I started yelling at them that they’re violating the city’s order, and my religious freedom, and that I’m the one responsible for all of this,” Hodges said. “Basically, I was telling them to just arrest me.” 

following the 2020 raid, Zide Door was originally a so-called “cannabis church,” but it “added mushrooms to its offerings last summer after the Oakland City Council approved a resolution declaring that arresting adults ‘involved’ with certain psychedelic plants was among the ‘lowest priority’ for local law enforcement.”

The resolution, approved by the city council in 2019, effectively decriminalized mushrooms, which made Oakland the second city (following Denver) to take such a leap.

“This wasn’t about whether we were doing something wrong,” Hodges said in

. “It was about how the police can take money from something that they think is wrong.”

Ed Knight

About The Author

Ed Knight

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.

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