Amarett Jans

Judge Drops Church’s Case Defending Cannabis Use as Sacrament

The Indianapolis-based First Church of Cannabis saw its 3-year-old case seeking protections for cannabis use under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) dismissed on Friday, the IndyStar reports.

Bill Levin, the church’s founder and spiritual leader, wrote on Friday to his Facebook followers, “It’s far from over. We are just getting started.” An attorney for the church has previously said the group would appeal if the case was not won.

Judge Sheryl Lynch wrote in her order to dismiss the case that city and state law enforcement officers should not be expected to treat the church’s patrons differently from the rest of the public.

“The 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…”

“It is compelling and appropriate to treat the illicit drug market in a unitary way.” — Judge Sheryl Lynch, in her dismissal of the First Church of Cannabis’ case

Meanwhile, the church — which is recognized as a non-profit corporation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) — argued that the government can’t cherry-pick which religious beliefs it chooses to protect.

“Whether one agrees with the beliefs of the church is irrelevant. The church is a religious organization engaged in exercise of religion.” — Bill Levin, during the trial

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill called the church “a pro-marijuana political crusade that turned into a legal stunt.”

“Indiana’s laws against the possession, sale and use of marijuana protect the health, safety and well-being of Hoosiers statewide. When the state has justifiable and compelling interests at stake, no one can evade the law simply by describing their illegal conduct as an exercise of religious faith.” — Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, via IndyStar

Levin replied to Hill’s comments online, writing that, “Cannabis is safer than Curtis Hill.”

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