The First Church of Cannabis in Indiana saw their lawsuit go up in smoke. The church, which claims that their congregation uses marijuana in a sacramental manner to grow closer in love to one another, sought to get a religious exemption to the state’s marijuana laws under Indiana’s Religious Freedom and Reformation Act (RFRA).
Though officially a recognized church by the state and the IRS, Judge Jude Sheryl Lynch of the Marion County Superior Court ruled that the church could not smoke marijuana as a religious sacrament.
Religious Freedom or Reefer-dom
The state’s RFRA, which is based on the federal RFRA, was signed into law by then Governor Mike Pence.
This state law was intended to reaffirm a person’s right to exercise religion. But evidently, it has to be the “right,” err … “correct,” religion. Judge Jude struck down the petition, stating in her judgment that “undisputed evidence demonstrates that permitting a religious exemption to laws that prohibit the use and possession of marijuana would hinder drug enforcement efforts statewide and negatively impact public health and safety.”
She further stated that it would be too difficult for law enforcement to evaluate the sincerity of a religious belief in this situation. Given that the church has monthly fees of $4.20, the head of the church is called The Grand Poobah, and that the idea to establish the church came from watching The Flintstones, it is possible the judge has a point.
Church Will Appeal
Perhaps it would be easier if the church moved out to California, or another state that allows for recreational marijuana use. But the church isn’t interested in easy solutions. They firmly believe that this is a violation of their First Amendment Right to free exercise of religion that is protected by RFRA. Bill Levin, the church’s Grand Poobah, does intend to fight the decision. Stay tuned to see if this case will be referred to the “higher” appellate court.
Marijuana laws vary by state. Before lighting up, make sure to stay on top of the laws in your state.