‘Church of Cannabis’ prompts more questions about marijuana legalization

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INDIANAPOLIS (June 10, 2015) – Should smoking marijuana be against the law? Or should it be legal here in Indiana?

Lately it’s been a big question in the news- two recent national polls show 53% of Americans support the idea of legal marijuana.

Of course, in some states smoking weed is legal. A few months ago, we took you to Colorado to show you the effect of their new laws allowing recreational marijuana.

Meantime, here in Indiana, a recent Howey Politics Indiana poll showed 28 percent said we should keep our state's laws the way they are. Just 24 percent of Hoosiers supported marijuana for recreational use, while 31 percent supported legalizing it for medicinal use.

And then there’s the group wanting to use the drug for ‘religious’ purposes.

The ‘First Church of Cannabis’ is trying to use the new religious freedom law as a loophole, and now they’ve announced they’ll hold their services in an old church building on the Southeast side.

“We offer sanctuary for those who need it medicinally (and) we offer sanctuary for those who want to pray with it,” said church founder Bill Levin.

But some neighbors say they’re not too happy about it.

“We come out and we see a marijuana sign outside our door. It’s sickening,” said neighbor Sarah Taylor. “I’m scared that somebody’s going to be too high or too drunk and leave and then what happens? If they cause a wreck who’s going to be held responsible?”

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service has even given its blessing to the church, awarding Levin a nonprofit tax-exempt status.

Read the IRS letter here.

Levin said marijuana is his church’s holy sacrament and Indiana’s religious freedom law was his green light. He’s assembled a team of attorneys who will use the religious freedom law as a defense if needed in court.

Legal experts say the church will have a high burden to prove. The government, meantime, under the religious freedom law would have to prove a compelling reason to interfere with religious practices.

When asked if he’ll join members in smoking, Levin responded, “Oh yeah. I’m lighting up. There’s no question about it.”

Levin plans to hold his first service on July 1, the same day the religious freedom law takes effect.


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