Despite Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act going into effect on July 1, one church is still being forced to give up its beloved religious sacrament in the Hoosier State.
Due to repeated warnings from local law enforcement authorities, Bill Levin, the founder of the First Church of Cannabis, announced the church’s first service will not include marijuana.
Levin’s statement came almost two days after Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry and Indianapolis Police Chief Rick Hite warned about arrests of people found in possession of marijuana during a press conference on June 26.
“We're not criminals. We're not breaking the law. We are celebrating life's great adventure with a brand new religion, so we're going to kick it off anyway. We're going to have a fabulous time. We're going to have all the testimonials. We're all going to celebrate. The only difference is I will be lighting up a cigar again rather than cannabis," Levin told a local news channel in an interview, adding he plans to file a civil suit as well.
Even though Levin has told people to keep their pot out of the much-anticipated inaugural service, police and neighborhood residents are apparently planning to make the event “inconvenient” for cannaterians – the followers of the unique religion.
“The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department on Tuesday (June 30) morning posted official 'no parking' signs for blocks surrounding the church, which is in the middle of a residential Eastside neighborhood. Police said they were merely reinforcing existing law. Numerous residents posted their own no parking signs or strung yellow tape that said 'caution' to keep cars off their property,” reported The Indianapolis Star.
Regardless of all the opposition, the pot worshippers under the leadership of their church minister are determined.
Levin has said there will not be a tent in the parking lot behind the church, as previously planned, to accommodate an overflow crowd. He said there was a "paperwork snafu."
The First Church of Cannabis first hit the headlines in March after Gov. Pence proposed the controversial religious freedom bill which limits the government from interfering in people’s religious practices. But according to critics, is in fact a homophobic political ruse that gives businesses the right to refuse service to gay people.
Levin started the church in an attempt to test Pence’s law and thereby make the consumption of marijuana a religious right in a state where it has not been legalized yet.
It was seen as a humorous – yet ingenious – initiative at first. But considering the support it has amassed in a short span of time and the fact that Levin now intends to take this matter to civil court, it looks like things are getting serious at the First Church of Cannabis.
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