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Marijuana Church Wants to Turn Nederland Into a Cannabis Sanctuary

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Nederland was considered one of Colorado's most pot-friendly places long before Amendment 64 passed. Growers have found solace in the hills around the tiny town for decades, and people burning bowls outside of acoustic jams and coffeehouses was commonplace for years. So it was no surprise that 73 percent of the voters there approved Amendment 64 in November 2012.

Now some Nederland residents want to take it a step further by making their town a cannabis sanctuary.

See also: Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner Won't Sign License Application, Calls It Downright Evil, published July 2010

Closer to the Heart Cannabis Ministry, founded by well-known pot activist Kathleen Chippi, has begun collecting signatures to get an initiative on the April ballot that would prevent the town from enforcing any laws regarding cannabis if the herb is being used medically or spiritually. According to Chippi, the law is modeled after sanctuary-city laws passed in the 1980s that protected Central and South American refugees in the United States from deportation. Like those immigrants, cannabis users need protection, Chippi says, because cannabis isn't as legal in Colorado as the general public thinks.

"We are forced to put this ordinance on the ballot because, contrary to popular perception, cannabis has not been legalized in Colorado," Chippi states in a press release announcing the move. "Not a single marijuana crime was removed from the Colorado Revised Statutes by Amendment 64. People are still being prosecuted. We went from three pages of cannabis law in Colorado to over 600 pages of cannabis law, and high courts have ruled that cannabis remains illegal. This is not legalization. You can still lose custody of your children, still lose your employment, still lose your right to own a firearm, still lose your occupational license, still lose your housing, your health insurance and your veteran's benefits. You can still have all your assets seized by the feds. You can lose the ability to get an organ transplant, and, of course, you can still lose your freedom."

Chippi founded Closer to the Heart Ministry in 2010, and the congregation meets regularly in One Brown Mouse, her gift shop in downtown Nederland. The church believes that cannabis is the Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible and that peace can come through acceptance of the plant.

Supporters should have the ballot-question summary back from the Nederland town administrator by the end of the week, after which they'll need to collect eighty signatures in order to get it on the ballot for the April 7 town elections.

"The sanctuary ordinance represents a step towards true legalization, not the fake feel-good 'legalization' that has been promoted by the drug policy 'reform' groups like MPP, NORML, Sensible, SAFER, ASA and DPA," says Chippi. "This cannabis sanctuary ordinance prevents money from being used to persecute people. It is another way of having citizens send a message to the government that we are sick of the harm and waste of resources caused by the war on cannabis users."

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