A so-called cannabis church in La Puente has filed a lawsuit against the city, county and sheriff’s department, claiming religious freedom violations.
Deputies raided the Hundred Harmonies Association of Faith on Nov. 15, 2017. Church leaders filed a lawsuit this week.
Church leaders say during the raid, deputies broke equipment, damaged property and took cannabis sacrament used by members in religious ceremonies.
“Cannabis is central and vital to our religious beliefs,” said Rev. James Young Phan, the church’s head minister.
Alanna Reeves, president of Association of Sacramental Ministries, said it was inappropriate for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to raid the church.
Reeves said the raid came after a priest from a larger and more established religion came to Hundred Harmonies, chastised its members and demanded it close.
The deputies involved in the raid were assigned to the Industry Station’s Special Assignment Operations Team that led investigators to the illegal marijuana dispensary operating inside the church.
Officials say they discovered a dispensary selling marijuana, concentrated cannabis such as marijuana wax, various marijuana packaging and edibles such as the likes of chocolate bars.
During the raid, officials seized $295 and marijuana valued at up to $30,000.
“A church is not a marijuana dispensary simply because it believes cannabis is its religious sacrament,” said Mike Cindrich, a San Diego attorney representing the church. “State and federal law protect minority religions from discrimination and preferring a church that has alcohol as its sacrament is simply wrong. For thousands of years, cannabis has been used in religions around the world as an entheogen and sacrament.”