The Religion of Cannabis and the Law
Over the course of the last several decades, the attitude toward cannabis has changed in the many parts of the United States, as well as in Canada. It has slowly been demystified and shown to be beneficial. With the research that has been done to prove the usefulness of cannabis, it has been decriminalized in many areas for medicinal purposes, as well as for recreational use. It has even cropped up in religions, such as the First Church of Cannabis in Indiana. However, it seems that not everyone – including the law in Indiana – is quite as “enlightened” as the members of the church are.
The First Church of Cannabis
The church says that their members utilize marijuana, but only as a religious sacrament. They believe it helps them to get closer to one another. This is a church that is recognized officially by the state, as well as the IRS. They were recognized under the Religious Freedom and Reformation Act, which was signed into law by former governor of the state Mike Pence. The church believed that the same act would allow them to have a religious exemption and be allowed to smoke marijuana.
However, the current laws on marijuana in the state of Indiana still classify it as a Schedule 1 drug, which means that it is considered illegal to possess, use, sell, or manufacture. They believe it has a high potential for abuse, and the state does not believe that it has any recognized medical value at all. Therefore, even though the First Church of Cannabis might be a recognized church, it is still illegal. Marion County Superior Court’s Judge Jude Sheryl Lynch says that the church will not be able to use marijuana as a religious sacrament.
She claimed that allowing them to utilize marijuana would make it more difficult for drug enforcement officials in the state, and that it could affect the public safety and health negatively.
Is This a Real Church?
You might be wondering whether this is even a real church, and according to the requirements of the state, it is. However, the leader of the church does call himself the Grand Poobah and says that he had the idea when he was watching an episode of The Flintstones. They also reportedly have monthly fees of $4.20. Despite the trappings of the church, they are still technically a church. They have also decided that they believe their religious right is being infringed upon and they are going to appeal the decision. They believe that their First Amendment right is being violated, as they do not have the ability to freely exercise their religion, which is supposed to be protected for everyone under Pence’s RFRA. It will be interesting to watch what happens with this case going forward.
Of course, before anyone else tries to invoke their religious right while imbibing cannabis, they might want to check the laws in their state or province first… just to be on the safe side.