At 1 pm on Thursday, August 13, Zide Door—an entheogenic church in Oakland, California, that recognizes cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms as religious sacraments—was raided by Oakland Police Department (OPD) during parishioner visiting hours.
Zide Door wasn’t just any ordinary church: Its exterior was nondescript, with security guards at the front door, leading to a body scanner visitors would pass through before entering the reception area. Newcomers would need to sign up as members of the church—which entailed answering a series of questions, such as whether you smoke or consume entheogenic plants—before receiving a membership card that would allow them access to the rest of the facility. Past the reception was a section of pews, where services were held Sundays at 4:20—before the pandemic hit—and then a dispensary section where visitors could buy an array of psilocybin or cannabis products.
According to Zide Door’s preacher, Dave Hodges, the raid was facilitated by more than 20 Oakland Police Department (OPD) officers and the fire department. At least six cops arrived with handguns, while two others went through the building with massive assault rifles. The security footage shows a member of the fire department using a “jaws-of-life” tool, an industrial scissor-like machine designed to extricate accident victims from vehicles, and a circular saw to break into safes where money and product were kept. The cumulative cost of loss and damages, according to Hodges, is upwards of $200,000.
Hodges describes the way in which OPD executed the raid as haphazard. More specifically, he adds, while a member of the fire department attempted to break open a safe, metal shards and debris hit the firefighter in the face. Afterward, a trail of blood drops is seen on the security footage throughout the church. “He’s fine, considering he cut open the safe with a circular saw after that,” says Hodges. “But it’s alarming that they didn’t clean up the blood and created a biohazard—in the middle of a pandemic, no less.”
Located nearby Lake Merritt off International Boulevard, Hodges says that Zide Door relied upon religious protection, provided under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—legislation that prohibits the federal government “from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” In other words, for example, even though plant medicine like ayahuasca is federally illegal, groups using it for sincere religious purposes may be able to seek protection from RFRA.