A San Jose church, the Sacrament Collective Pentecostal Church, has lost a lengthy legal battle after claiming that police violated its religious rights during a raid on its minister’s home. The raid resulted in the seizure of 90 pounds of marijuana, nearly 1,200 cannabis vaping cartridges, and over $155,000 in cash. On Tuesday, Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled in federal court in Oakland that the church, despite its belief in cannabis as a holy sacrament, is still subject to state drug laws.
The lawsuit was filed by the church against Santa Cruz County a month after the 2019 search of the minister’s house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The raid uncovered marijuana in large plastic bags, vaping cartridges, vaping pen parts, 115 cannabis plants, a money-counting machine, and cash hidden in various locations throughout the house.
The church’s lawyer argued that the raid and subsequent seizure violated the church’s Constitutional right to freely practice its religion. However, Judge Hamilton stated in her ruling that Santa Cruz County had not prevented the church from using or possessing cannabis in lawful quantities as a sacrament. She emphasized that state laws limit the church’s commercial cannabis activity while permitting its members’ sacramental use.
The judge also noted that the minister and her husband were convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and faced additional charges related to cultivating and possessing marijuana for sale. The outcomes of those charges were not specified.
In a separate legal case, the city of San Jose sued the minister, her husband, and their church in 2020, alleging that they were operating an illegal marijuana shop under the guise of a house of worship. The couple argued in court filings that their church’s central sacrament was cannabis and that contributions from members for the sacrament were used to fund charitable and religious work.
The San Jose church has since shut down, according to their lawyer.