City officials have determined that some of the people who ran Amsterdam's Garden now operate the Coachella Valley Church, Doyle said.
Church leaders at first agreed to be interviewed but then did not respond to subsequent emails from California Healthline. A man who was videotaping the recent Sunday service said the church opened in May. The man, who gave his name as Dryden Brite, also goes by Xak Puckett, and has been described in media reports as a former director of Amsterdam's Garden.
"The message is really strong and powerful," Puckett said of the church. "People are craving something new."
He described the back room where marijuana products were sold to members as the church's "gift shop," then declined to answer further questions.
About half of the churchgoers left the black-and-gold worship room immediately after receiving their sacrament, with some heading straight to the gift shop to stock up.
Others remained to finish their joints and chitchat. The man sporting the "Jesus Loves You" cap lingered. He had brought along his dog, Spartan, and a shofar, a ram's horn used in some Jewish ceremonies, which he blew loudly at the end of the service.
"Anytime the word of God is being preached, it's a good thing," said Mark, a 57-year-old who declined to give his last name.
Marco, a 29-year-old veterinary technician from San Jose who also declined to give his last name, attended with his husband. He has a medical marijuana card and said marijuana helps him with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. He grew up Catholic and felt that the Roman Catholic Church disapproved of his sexual orientation and marijuana use.
"Honestly, this has been the most life-affirming church I've ever been to," Marco said. "Here there are true believers in cannabis -- if not the faith."
(Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.)
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