On Wednesday July 8, the First Church of Cannabis took action to sue the state of Indiana on charges of state laws infringing on its religious beliefs.
The church, which was created the same day that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act became law, is claiming that the state laws making marijuana possession or being in an area where it is used a punishable offense, violates the United States and Indiana constitutions. They believe these laws contravene with their religious beliefs.
Within the lawsuit, it claims that members of the church hold the belief that marijuana is a sacrament which,
“brings us closer to ourselves and others. It is our fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression. We embrace it with our whole heart and spirit, individually and as a group.”
During a news conference at the Indiana Statehouse, church founder Bill Levin spoke about the lawsuit,
“We are taking legal action today to ensure love has no barriers in our land. Today we invite the state of Indiana and all its leaders to joyfully meet us in a court of law for clarifications on our core religious values. We look forward to engaging them on the high plane of dignity and discipline, with love and compassion in our hearts, to find a swift and sensible answer for our questions of religious equality.”
The First Church of Cannabis, which has over 1000 members, held their first service on July 1. More than 100 people attended, as well as being surveyed by approximately 20 police officers.
Arrests were threatened by local officials if any marijuana was present, which led to a “sacrament substitute” being smoked, rather than cannabis.
The second church service was held on Wednesday, July 8.
Gov. Mike Pence, who signed the Religious Restoration Act into law, was one of the named defendants in the lawsuit.
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