City News

New Rastafari church sets up shop on Mifflin, draws high scrutiny from city

Though marijuana is illegal in the state of Wisconsin, a new Madison establishment claims to have hit the jackpot by using the drug for religious purposes. 

Image By: Ethan Levy

The newest religious institution of Madison, the Lion of Judah House Rastafari, has taken up residence on Mifflin Street and gained significant attention after distributing unique “sacraments” for religious practice to members of the church.

Consistent with other practices of the Rastafari religion, the new Madison establishment offers small amounts of marijuana to its members in order to facilitate meditation and for “uplifting mind and spirit.”

Though other churches or religious institutions market themselves as non-denominational, the Rastafaris at the new joint label themselves as “all-denominational.”

The church, set up at 555 W. Mifflin St., welcomes all and aims to stock their inventories in the coming weeks with new ways of reaching higher religious experiences.

The state of Wisconsin still considers marijuana an illegal substance to use and harbor, but the owners of the church, Jesse Schworck and Dylan Bangert, have devised a way to get around the law.

According to Schworck, you can’t just roll up and buy it. 

In order to receive the sacrament, attendees have to show their support for the church by becoming a member and pledging donations to the establishment. Interested parties can even sign up online to expedite the process.

In order to get around both federal and state laws, Schworck and Bangert dove into the weeds of constitutional law, emphasizing the allowances given to citizens under the First Amendment.

In order to keep in line with both the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s rulings, the church said marijuana is used as a sacrament like any other religious practice, and items used for practice cannot be gifted to the public.

However, the city of Madison does not think highly of the idea.

Jennifer Zilavy, an assistant city attorney, issued a cease and desist notice to the owner of the building and a separate official notice of drug nuisance to Schworck. Zilavy emphasized the illegality of the substances present, going so far as to call the establishment a “drug house.”

In her letter to Schworck, Zilavy attempted to dispel any arguments that the church is acting legally. According to the city attorney, the Supreme Court case Schworck likely based their argument on only applies to Native American peyote use.

However, the church still has high hopes to open their doors April 27.

Schworck said with the development of the church in both its physical space and its attendance, they will begin to provide marijuana-infused coffee, oils, edibles and more in the pursuit of Rastafari religious studies. 

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