Following some neighbor complaints, an East Oakland church dedicated to psychedelics was raided by police in mid-August, and the founder of the church wants people to know he has nothing to hide.
The Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants says it is devoted to providing safe access to magic mushrooms (psilocybin), cannabis, and other psychedelics for the purposes of spiritual growth and awakening. And the founder of the one-year-old church, Dave Hodges, makes no bones about the fact that the church collects payment from "parishioners" — of which he says there are 20,000 — for the drugs. As he explains to SFGate, he sees Zide Door as just like ayahuasca and peyote churches that have been allowed to operate under the Religious Freedom Act — and he sees the money exchanged as just like dues to tithes.
Church members sign an agreement when they join saying that they "own everything that is part of the church." "When you’re a member, you are an owner," Hodges says. "And under that scenario, how do we sell you anything that you already own?"
But the Oakland Police Department didn't see it that way. And there was apparently so much smoke emanating from the church building on 10th Avenue — Sunday services at 4:20 p.m. often include a communal joint (pre-COVID?) — that the Alameda County Health Department had reached out about complaints that the church was "creating respiratory health issues" for children who live nearby.
As Oakland police captain Rendell Wingate tells KPIX, the churches he knows aren't "known to sell cannabis or mushrooms." And he adds, "This is the first for-profit religious establishment I’ve seen in my 28 years as an Oakland cop."
Police had to saw into the church's safe during the August 13 raid, and as VICE reported, they confiscated about $200,000 worth of mushrooms and cannabis, as well as some cash.
Hodges posted photos of the raid on Instagram, saying, "Goes to show you how ridiculous the OPD is in this situation... What a great use of time and resources!?"
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Oakland Police using the fire department and the jaws of life/the tools to save somebody from a car crash, to illegally break into the church's safe. Not only did they waste over 20 officers time, they wasted the time of firefighters who could otherwise be saving someone's life with these same tools. Goes to show you how ridiculous the OPD is in this situation... What a great use of time and resources!? 🚔+🚒=😓
Hodges has a history in the Bay Area medical marijuana world, and was part of the San Jose Cannabis Collective. These days, with Zide Door, he's been trying to promote the use of mushrooms and cannabis after having a spiritual experience himself taking extremely high doses of psilocybin — a section of the church's website is devoted to such high-dose trips, for which it recommends a dark room, a bed with a bathroom nearby, and possibly adult diapers.
"The core concept of what we believe is our ancient ancestors came across these mushrooms and, being a hungry monkey who finds a bunch of these mushrooms, they were likely to eat a bunch of them," Hodges said to KPIX. "And, if you eat a lot of these mushrooms, you can have some very intense experiences that can only be described as spiritual visions."
Hodges refers to these very large helpings of psilocybin as "god doses," and says that one such trip led him to form the church.
(In a recent Facebook post, Hodges says that one church member, #18846, just did "88.2g of Albino A+ in Tea form." He says, "This was a crazy journey, but he made it through and came out very positive. He is doing profoundly spiritual work.")
Oakland has, technically, decriminalized the use of psilocybin, ayahuasca, and other entheogenic plants. But the religious freedom exemption may be taking things a bit far when it comes to selling the stuff
As Decriminalize California campaign director Ryan Munevar tells SFGate, "People have tried this before with cannabis, they create these churches, and it doesn’t really work."
The Alameda County DA's office has not yet filed charges against Zide Door or Hodges, and Hodges tells KPIX that he's preparing a civil lawsuit against the OPD and the city "our First Amendment rights based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act."
Below, one more photo of Hodges in his psychedelic priest vestments.
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Come join Hyphae and Pastor @davehemp tomorrow 8/20 at 5pm PST for our 2 part IG Live. We will be discussing the recent raid on his church, the implications of legal status of entheogens in Oakland in light of the raid, high doses and much more. COME TAP IN! Tell a friend!