Judge harshes cannabis church’s bid to get blazed
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Up in smoke

Judge harshes cannabis church’s bid to get blazed

Court says religious group's love of marijuana does not count as a religion, shooting down congregation founded by Reform Jew testing Indiana's religious freedom laws

Bill Levin, the Minister of Love at the First Church of Cannabis, is expressing his freedom of religion. (courtesy)
Bill Levin, the Minister of Love at the First Church of Cannabis, is expressing his freedom of religion. (courtesy)

INDIANAPOLIS — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a pot-smoking Indianapolis church that wants marijuana to be recognized as a sacrament.

The Indianapolis Star reported that the 3-year-old case in Marion Circuit Court was dropped Friday.

The First Church of Cannabis filed the lawsuit on grounds that pot was considered a sacrament under Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In her dismissal, Judge Sheryl Lynch said the church’s love for marijuana does not count as practicing a religion. She also said allowing exemptions for illegal marijuana use and possession would negatively impact society.

The pro-cannabis church’s attorney told The Star last week he plans to appeal should the church lose the case. The group has argued that the government has no right to decide which religious beliefs should be protected.

The church was founded in 2015 at least in part, to protest the passage of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The controversial act was described by some liberal activists as a means to legally counteract the state’s same-sex marriage law, and decried in mass media by celebrities and religious leaders, including most Indianapolis rabbis.

Then-Indiana governor Mike Pence had urged the passage of legislation to safeguard local ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Speaking to The Times of Israel shortly after the church was started, founder Bill Levin, who was raised a Reform Jew, described his religion as being honest with God, and with yourself, and promoting the health benefits of cannabis in the worship service.

“We welcome everybody in the world here — as long as you have the celebration of love in your heart, you’re welcome,” said Levin.

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