Who says marijuana and religion can’t mix?
“This is what I live by and I have more faith in this religion than any other,” says the church’s founder, Bill Levin. Levin is gearing up to hold his first service on July 1, which incidentally, is the same day that Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) goes into effect. Levin is adamant that this is more than just an excuse for a bunch of pot-heads to get together. He says that his lifestyle is lived by him and millions of other people.
And why not? Levin sees cannabis as a healing plant with a host of medicinal properties that is worthy of holy status. The self-employed carpenter plans to start each service with harmonica music and then go on to discussing the church’s teachings. Anyone is welcome, so if you want to join Levin you could look for some cannabis friendly accommodation and plan a trip.
RFRA has been drawn up in an attempt to protect religion from the government, but it has attracted a lot of attention and criticism, and that was before Levin stepped in. RFRA could mean that it is legal for religious businesses to refuse to serve or sell to same-sex couples, and for that reason could be seen as a play by religious sectors to discriminated against the gay population.
Off the back of this pressure and in a bid to protect gay, lesbian, trans-gender and bisexual people, Indiana lawmakers amended RFRA to state that the law cannot be used to discriminate or undermine local human rights ordinances.
Levin is practically goading the local police into arresting him or any of the his church’s followers, and on the very first day that RFRA goes into operation his first service is going to challenge the new protections. Having raised $10,000 plus via crowdfunding, Lenin’s church has developed quite a following already. Despite having the funds to rent a space, Levin says that local churches have resisted his offers, so he is presently still shopping around for a church in which to hold service.
The First Church of Cannabis has its own twelve commandments called the “Deity Dozen.” The first of which is “Don’t be an a$$h01e.” Levin says that at the end of service the Deity Dozen will be recited and then marijuana will be smoked.
Is it likely that Levin and his congregation will get arrested on July 1? Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has pointed out that in other types of religious service, laws are frequently broken without consequence. Take for example, the drinking of wine at confession. Plenty of Catholic or Jewish minors partake in such activity. Falk points out that drinking wine when under the legal age is breaking the law, but it is left alone because it is considered a legal practice. How would smoking pot in the First Church of Cannabis be any different?
However, Falk also says that Levin would have to convince a judge that the First Church of Cannabis is a sincere religion, not not just an excuse to smoke pot, and that will have to be decided in court.
We shall see.