BY: MATTHEW CHIN
In Indianapolis, Indiana, following the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a controversial law that has been known to deliberately suppress LGBT rights, has unintentionally helped The First Church of Cannabis become a legitimate establishment.
The RFRA states that if you have a religion, the government won’t impede on your right for that religion. Bill Levin, the minister and “Grand Pooba” of the church legitimized his church and congregation by applying for legal status, and was approved the very day the RFRA was signed. The church is established as a religious corporation, and is considered by law as The First Church of Cannabis Inc., while also making Cannabis their sacrament.
Bill Levin, the minister and “Grand Pooba” of the church legitimized his church and congregation by applying for legal status, and was approved the very day the RFRA was signed.
The church is established as a religious corporation, and is considered by law as The First Church of Cannabis Inc., while also making Cannabis their sacrament.
The church has raised over $15,000 in two months with more than 700 backers on a GoFundMe campaign, with the minimum donation appropriately at $4.20. The money will be used to buy an existing church or build one with “hempcrete,” a material similar to concrete with hemp infused in the mixture.
In the church, Levin plans to grow hemp, and adhere to a ”Diety Dozen,” similar to a contemporary version of the 10 commandments that range from “Don’t be an asshole,” to “Do not be a ‘troll’ on the Internet,” to “Cannabis is our sacrament.” Levin believes that this church promotes love, equality, compassion and a prosperous way of life.
The church promotes love, equality, compassion and a prosperous way of life.
Photo: Robyn Beck, AFP/File
“We are celebrating life, love, community involvement, and we are doing all the things that churches are supposed to do,” Levin said in an interview with MSNBC. “Because we embrace the cannabis plant as our sacrament doesn’t mean we`re sad people.”
Levin also plans to set up an Alcoholics Anonymous and heroin counseling to help find a community for people affected with addiction, within the church.
With over one million people legally using marijuana for medicinal purposes, Levin believes it is “the Healing Plant” and those that are members of his church also embrace it with their whole heart and spirit.
Photo: Justin Sullivan
The Internal Revenue Service has also granted the church tax exemption as it adheres to the characteristics of any other church such as a distinct legal existence, a recognized creed, and regular congregations of its own, among other rules.
“Somebody at the IRS loves us because we got it back in less than 30 days,” said Levin on the Church’s Facebook page.
The drug is still illegal in Indiana and church members called “Cannetarians” are not allowed to buy, sell or practice marijuana in all of Indiana.
Having the potential to be the most popular church on April 20, with both a tax-exemption and recognition from the state, the First Church of Cannabis is a now a visible religion for worshippers of Cannabis to congregate. The first service is set to begin next month on July 1, just one minute after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act takes effect, providing a humorous and unintentional side-effect from using religious extremism for an alternative form of freedom.