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STEVE ELLIOTT

Your source for uncut, uncensored, no holds barred, non-corporate controlled cannabis news

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“Love, laughter and a tenacious sense of what’s right rules my soul”
Bill Levin, Founder, First Church of Cannabis
[Kelly Wilkinson / Indy Star]

The First Church of Cannabis just suffered a loss in court in its bid to have its marijuana use recognized under Indiana’s religious freedom laws as a religious sacrament. The church immediately vowed to appeal the decision.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Sheryl Lynch on Friday rejected the suit. Judge Lynch ruled that members of the church wouldn’t be exempt from enforcement of state and federal laws against the herb, reports Rachel Gribble at NBC4i.

Officials in the church had filed a lawsuit against Indiana in 2015, days after becoming a recognized church in the state. The suit contended that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) should allow for a religious exemption from state and local marijuana laws.

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The Mike Pence-supported RFRA was written to provide a legal way to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. But Bill Levin founded the First Church of Cannabis to turn the law in another direction

The novel interpretation of Indiana’s so-called “religious freedom” law was particularly rich because of the intent behind the original law itself.

Indiana’s conservative Legislature — backed by former Indiana governor and Vice President Mike Pence, along with the current governor — passed the law as a sneaky, end-around way to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people after a wedding cake maker refused to bake a cake for a gay couple.

The Legislature’s “solution” was to hide homophobia behind a fake edifice of religion. The stated intent of the RFRA is to “protect” individuals from government infringement on the practice of religion, unless the government can show a “compelling reason” to do so. What it does in reality, of course, is to codify and legalize discrimination by businesses against gay people for so-called “religious” reasons.

In her opinion, Judge Lynch wrote a marijuana religious exemption would make it hard for authorities to enforce the pot laws.

According to the judge, officers aren’t trained or equipped to determine the sincerity of an individual’s religious beliefs. Why the “sincerity” of some homophobic baker’s religious beliefs weren’t questioned in discriminating against gays apparently doesn’t matter.

“It would be impossible to combat illicit drug use and trade in a piecemeal fashion that allowed for a religious exemption that would become ripe for abuse,” Lynch laboriously wrote. “Failure to regulate all marijuana in Indiana would leave a gaping hole in our state’s drug prohibitions. There is just no way to tailor these laws more narrowly without undermining the entire enforcement scheme.”

Lynch’s opinion claimed that if she granted the church’s exemption request, it would be exploited by “thieves, gangs and drug dealers.”

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First Church of Cannabis Founder Bill Levin gestures during the church’s first service in Indianapolis, July 1, 2015
[Michael Conroy / AP]

The First Church of Cannabis was founded in Indiana after passage of the RFRA, specifically to test the new law.

The church has its own “Deity Dozen” version of the Ten Commandments, wherein cannabis, “the Healing Plant,” is described as “our sacrament.”

“It brings us closer to others,” according to the church. “It is our fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression. We embrace it with our whole heart and spirit, individually and as a group.”

The church was granted nonprofit status by the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2015.

Bill Levin First Church of Cannabis religious
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“We are most certainly appealing this,” founder Bill Levin of the First Church of Cannabis told Toke Signals Monday morning.

“The upside is, they have declared it is an official religion,” Levin said. “Cannaterians are here to stay — even if we have to practice our faith undercover just as many great religions before us.

“Love, laughter and a tenacious sense of what’s right rules my soul,” Levin told us. “There is always an upside.

“Plus: Cannabis is the most lied-about plant on Earth — and that pisses me off,” he said. “We gotta do what is right, and the poor plant can’t speak for itself. So I will always step up and defend her. It ain’t over till the plant is free.”

 

 

 

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