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Rabbi Ben Gorelick Plans to Use Religious Freedom Against an 8-Year Minimum Psychedelic Charge

It’s not common to hear from a defendant during an ongoing case, especially when involving felony drug charges. Ben Gorelick from Denver is doing something different. Instead, they are A 42-year-old man is using media to promote his message regarding psychedelic ceremony, and the connection with Judaism as well as many other religions.

Gorelick was well aware of possible legal consequences and he did not seem to be fazed when he talked with him Chronic NewsIn June. Calm, friendly and confident, the Rabbi said he was ready for his day in court—whenever that may come.

A Spiritual awakening leads to psychoedelics

The Gorelick family has been a part of religion since its inception. The first decade of Ben’s life was spent in a tight-knit Orthodox community in northern New Mexico. At 10, a move to Albuquerque saw the family join a conservative Jewish synagogue when they couldn’t find an Orthodox community nearby.

“I had a very strongly religious childhood and upbringing, which I mostly appreciate,” said Gorelick.

His religious upbringing is what he credits for helping him learn important life lessons. Gorelick was not happy with his experiences. He felt that his childhood left him open to the possibility of being a naive and believing all people were equal. This view, and the connection to God, eroded when Gorelick moved to Alaska in college at 17.

Alaska has made Gorelick’s love of nature stronger. Two years in, however, Gorelick’s views would be immensely tested when a close friend died in his arms during an avalanche. His experiences and his reading of Nietzsche led him to a different religion. He searched for life’s answers, often ending up in nature.

He was 25 when he co-founded Mountain Training School. This school is for aspirant mountain guides. According to him, most people are capable of learning about mountains after four years’ training. The more difficult part of becoming a mountain guide is acquiring the necessary personal characteristics. When shaping the curriculum, Gorelick relied on his religious background—in particular, Mussar, a traditional Jewish spiritual development path for awareness, wisdom, and transformation.

“I stuck a secular skin right over the top of this very old Jewish thing,” he said, adapting portions to resonate with outdoor guide students.

After 11 years, Gorelick left school in 2015. Gorelick claims he did this to open up more possibilities to help with human growth and introspection. He enrolled in rabbinical college to do this. Instead of finding religious insights, he felt that “seminary was a law school for 4000-year-old laws.”

Gorelick was overwhelmed by his experience with Rabbis and the interactions with them over the years, but he searched for an alternative to creating transcendent experiences. He found the answer to his prayers in Kabbalah (a school of Jewish mysticism) in 2018. It was especially popularized by Madonna in 2000 as part of the celebrity religious wave.

DENVER, CO – NOVEMBER 6, 2021: A Sacred Tribe attendee, center, sits on a vibration healing table while others wait to try it out at a Sacrament Ceremony. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post).

Gorelick said that Kabbalah’s underpinning component is breathwork, with ecstatic sound, movement, and psilocybin sacraments playing critical roles. According to some reports, the sacraments marked Gorelick’s first contact with any banned drug at the age of 38. His first trip, going down in a friend’s apartment, brought about a life-changing experience.

“That was the very first time in my life I had felt God, like that place of oneness and openness,” he recalled. “Holy shit,” Gorelick added.

After realizing his peers were not experiencing anything like it, he started to create psychedelic groups with Rabbis as well as cantors. Late 2019 saw the formation of The Sacred Tribe.

“It started out and still exists as a children’s religious school,” the Rabbi pointed out, reporting to have over 1,000 students enrolled today. Similar to MTS, it uses Mussar for its model. Minors do not receive psychedelic Sacraments.

A 2020 adult component was also added. Gorelick stated that the group decided to publish their ceremonies rather than keep them secret like other groups, which he says he has seen do so.

Until late 2020, COVID largely hampered in-person interaction. The group has seen a resurgence with more than 260 adult members, the average age of which hovers in the middle 40s.

DENVER, CO – NOVEMBER 6, 2021: Sacred Tribe attendees stretch out on foam mattresses during a breathwork exercise after most took the sacrament, psilocybin mushrooms, at a Sacrament Ceremony. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post).

All Fire Inspections to Felony charges

The Sacred Tribe had begun holding Friday night sacrament ceremonies in 2021. According to Gorelick members were typically attending once a month. The community used 39 strains of psilocybin to assist members in various ways, including helping them to find their inner peace and sparking creative ideas.

Gorelick has a chemical engineering degree and stated that they never sought to circumvent laws. Instead, he said the focus has always been to gain federal religious exemption status via the DEA’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Following the agency’s instructions, Gorelick said there is “the caveat that at some point in time, they’re going to come knocking on your door” to prove the religious practice and ceremonies are genuine. The day was always in sight, so the group began to prepare, working closely with professionals who are experienced with psychedelics, and ensuring compliance with Colorado’s federal laws. This community has worked with Johns Hopkins University experts and various psychedelic laboratory personnel along the journey.

They didn’t expect to see their day in court with authorities until January 2022.

All of it ended up during a fire inspector. Gorelick claimed that the inspector mistakenly thought he was a drug dealer. A warrant was issued hours later. Authorities searched the group’s facility, apprehending one employee and confiscating every mushroom on-site. Gorelick was later arrested and charged with possessing with intent to make or distribute controlled substances. Gorelick faces at least eight years imprisonment if he is found guilty.

DENVER, CO – NOVEMBER 6, 2021: Rabbi Ben Gorelick, measures out a precise amount of sacrament, psilocybin mushrooms, during Sacred Tribe Sacrament ceremony at the Synagogue, his home. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post).

He’s since pushed back on the charges, pointing toward the group’s reputation as evidence of compliance.

“There are no complaints lodged against us,” he claimed.

He says he will follow all regulations and guidelines to produce every sacrament at a commercial location.

“We’re not going to do it in Larry’s closet,” he remarked.

More so, Gorelick points towards Kabbalah’s connection to psilocybin ceremonies. He claims the group has existed for thousands of years and is prepared to show that it is exempt from any liability. They are ready to show that their efforts have been sincere, spiritual, and in their right.

“It still feels like a conversation rather than anything,” he said of the proceedings.

That feeling may come from Gorelick’s confidence or maybe from any remaining childhood naivety he carries about society. This case is more about the former than it is the latter. Federal laws from the 1990s support Native American tribes’ use of peyote, and other psychedelic ceremony. His defense might rely on Colorado law that predated the federal decision.

Gorelick’s court date is slated for late June but could be pushed back. The Rabbi believes that legal proceedings are moving fast.

“As much as you feel like four months is a long time, it’s a very, very short period in the legal world,” he opined. As he waited for his court date, and GoFundMe petitions were created to support his legal battle.

Gorelick is not only free, but also hopes that his case will be heard by religious practitioners.

The Sacred Tribe is still practicing today breathwork, dinners and other keys of exploration. They are continuing to investigate their relationship and the options for psychedelics. Gorelick, The Sacred Tribe and their future plans are being planned by the Jewish and psychedelic communities. He is grateful for the help. They, and the evidence he’s assembled, give him faith in the days ahead.