Crackdown on Coachella churches selling marijuana

Crackdown on churches selling marijuana

COACHELLA, Calif. - At the corner of Harrison and Cairo streets in Coachella, you'll find Mien Tao Church of Health, Body, and Mind. 

At the church, you'll also find a place where a variety of marijuana products can be purchased, along with "budtenders" to help. 

But that's not the only church on the block offering more than just "the Word."    

MTC Coachella, listed as a "religious organization", also opened its doors to those who like marijuana. 

That is until this past Sunday.

"These businesses try to operate as a quasi-religion," Coachella Mayor Steve Hernandez said. "They are essentially breaking the law, trying to skirt the law, going around otherwise as a business and city ordinances, and trying to pretend that they are a religion when in fact they're not. The judge has given us our first injunction in which we were allowed to shut down MTC, however, MTC did not listen. So, we started another processing which we went after another injunction, in which the MTC was in violation of the court order. It was in that process that this past Sunday MTC shut down." 

Hernandez said its the city's job to find the businesses operating illegally outside of city policies and ordinances, adding they're doing everything they legally can to shut them down. 

"In fact, for the last year, we've been fining MTC to the tune of about $4,000 a day," Hernandez said.

KESQ also reached out to Fr. Howard Lincoln of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Palm Desert, who offered his thoughts on cannabis being used as somewhat of a holy sacrament.

"Sacrament, not just in the Catholic church but in Christianity, a sacrament is a sacred moment when you are touched by God," Lincoln said. "In the Catholic church, we believe the bread and the wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus. (When) we take them in communion, we're being touched by God. You're not being touched by God when you're smoking marijuana." 

Hernandez said the city's approach has not just been the business owners, but property owners as well, with them also violating the law. 

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