Cannabis Church: It's High Time For A Lawsuit

Jul 8, 2015

As promised, the First Church of Cannabis has filed a suit using the new "religious freedom" law as its backing that parishioners should be able to smoke dope in church.
Credit Christopher Ayers / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Indiana’s highly-publicized First Church of Cannabis is going to court, hoping to stop the state from enforcing marijuana laws when it comes to the use of cannabis in its church services. 

The state's so-called "religious freedom" law creates a legal standard that says government must have a compelling reason to restrict someone’s religious practice and do so in the least burdensome way possible. 

First Church of Cannabis attorney Mark Small says Indiana’s laws prohibiting marijuana possession and use prevent church members from fully practicing their religion, even if the church itself is new.

“This religious society has beliefs that are rooted in Native American beliefs and in beliefs of long standing, of people here in the United States for generations,” Small says.

Small says it’s hard to buy the government’s argument that it must restrict marijuana use when other states have legalized the practice.  Church founder Bill Levin says while the lawsuit proceeds, the church will continue its services…without marijuana.

“We’ll celebrate life’s great adventure with love, compassion, and joy in our hearts.  It’s what we do,” Levin says.

Among those named in the lawsuit are Governor Mike Pence, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, and both the Indiana State Police and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.