First Church Of Cannabis Flicks Off Indiana's Religious Freedom Law

First Church Of Cannabis Flicks Off Indiana's Religious Freedom Law

By McCarton Ackerman 04/02/15

Indiana's Religious Freedom Law has brought about another off-kilter movement. 

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Those who worship at the altar of Mary Jane in the state of Indiana are about to be in good hands. After the state’s highly controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed last week, Indiana’s Secretary of State has formally approved the First Church of Cannabis.

Founded by Bill Levin, the church lists cannabis as the sacrament in its doctrine and has a stated intent to be “based on love and understanding with compassion for all.” He told the Washington Post that the church has already received $2,000 in donations in less than a week and, once the church is established, will ask members to donate $4.20 per month. He intends on using the funds to help build the first church or temple made of hempcrete, a building material similar to concrete that includes hemp.

“The bibles of other religions are yesteryear about the drinking out of goat skins. That doesn’t relate to people with GPS in their hand and 7,000 tunes in that same hand,” said Levin. "This path has led me to lead a religion that people in today’s world can relate to... We don’t have any guilt doctrine built in. We don’t have any sin built in.”

The church plans to grow hemp and Levin said he will not punish anyone who smokes marijuana onsite, but the drug will not be bought or sold on the property. Drug treatments will also play a role at the Church of Cannabis, with Levin announcing plans to hold counseling for heroin and AA meetings onsite. He will also ban alcohol on the premise.

Because marijuana is illegal for both recreational and medical use in Indiana, the church also poses potential issues surrounding existing laws on the book. Indiana attorney Abdul-Hakim Shabazz argued that under the new guidelines of the RFRA, those who claim to smoke pot as a religious sacrament may be able to escape legal consequences.

“The state has to articulate a compelling interest in preventing you from smoking pot,” he said. “I argue they can’t.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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