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"Healing Church" holds cannabis ceremony in Providence

{}After months of waiting, the West Greenwich-based Healing Church celebrated a public prayer ceremony with cannabis Saturday evening. "We're supposed to have religious freedom," said church member Rey Herrera. "We believe that this was in the Bible and that we need to do this as a sacrifice." Church members smoked cannabis on the sidewalk surrounding the Roger William National Memorial. The church wanted to smoke at a historical well located in the park, but a federal judge told them they couldn't use cannabis on the federal land. Anne Armstrong, one of the leaders of the Healing Church, says the well inside the park is important for the church's members. "Even in the 70's the cannabis sensitive people knew there was something very special about this well," Armstrong said. About 10 uniformed park police officers watched Saturday's ceremony from the parking, at times videotaping the church's actions. "They've made clear if we use cannabis religiously at the birthplace of religious freedom they're going to ticket us," said Alan Gordon of the New England Cannabis Anti-Discrimination Task force. Church leaders decided to conduct the cannabis portion of the ceremony on the public sidewalk. They circled the perimeter of the park seven times carrying religious pictures along with a cannabis plant and branch. Armstrong hopes that Saturday's ceremony is just another step towards their religion being accepted in the eyes of the public and law. She added that the church's next legal battle is trying to get approval to give cannabis to church members currently in jail.

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