Indianapolis, Indiana (TFC) – Bill Levin, the self proclaimed “Grand Poobah” of Indiana’s First Church Of Cannabis made an announcement on his Facebook page this afternoon stating that due to recent threats to monitor activity surrounding the church’s scheduled opening by The Indianapolis Metro Police Department, the Church of Cannabis in now prohibiting cannabis.
Marijuana is currently illegal in the state of Indiana for both medical and recreational use, so the church’s intent was to test the application of the Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which takes effect on the same day of their opening. Under RFRA, the state has to articulate a compelling interest in preventing you from consuming cannabis, which Levin has been very outspoken by saying that partaking in its consumption is his religion’s sacrament. Levin filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State, Connie Lawson, earlier this year to Incorporate The First Church Of Cannabis as a direct response to state lawmakers passing RFRA. Lawson approved the church as a religious corporation.
In an even more shocking turn of events in the timeline, on May 21, 2015 the church received 501(c) status by the I.R.S classifying it as a charitable organization. That’s when Levin garnered national attention for his endeavor and was asked to appear on many local, state, and cable news networks which conveniently all took place after a Gofundme page was started for the church which has now raised over $16,000 in donations. Many people have responded to his announcement with comments calling Bill a scam artist and saying this is no different than any religion, “It’s All about the Benjamin’s baby! The Church has actually been charging people who wish to physically attend services a $50 annual fee which entitles you to what looks like a Pokemon card.” In all fairness, I’ve met Bill and he seems to be a genuine guy who loves people and tries to put a smile on the face of everyone he meets. There were mixed feelings among the hundreds of commentators on his Facebook account.
Here are a few excerpts:
“I’m disappointed that the police scare tactics have worked. Civil disobedience is an honorable tactic that often works where other less confrontational methods fail. Backing down sends the wrong message.”
“You guys are backing down due to being scared. This church is a waste, doing nothing to help the cause of legal Marijuana and now it’s worth even less in the fight, cause you won’t even go through with it!”
“So you’re gonna bitch out? If you don’t need it for the first service then you don’t need it for the second and so on. When you cherry pick the rules and practiced rituals you are no better than the rest of these hypocritical religions. If Christians let people tell them they can have church but can’t praise Jesus do you think that would fly? Nope. This was a joke from jump street and I knew it would get plunked somehow. People can talk big but not act big. If it’s something you truly believe in you wouldn’t care if it costed money. You’ve accepted a lot of donations, you should use that money to pay everyone’s bail and then we fight this out in court and make history. I noticed you weren’t shy about posting your Gofund page again. What a crock!”
There were an overwhelming amount of comments in support of this decision, too many to weed through to be honest. Many of them sounded like statists who wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight, but nonetheless I do think their support for Bill speaks volumes to his character. However, the entire point of this happening on July 1st when RFRA goes into effect is now a non-issue and all of the media hype portraying Bill Levin to be the M.L.K of marijuana rights just doesn’t feel the same anymore. I honestly thought the point was to test the limits of RFRA, and then begin the court fight depending on how the police reacted and what they did. You wouldn’t have all of these media outlets lined up (and wouldn’t have had them all asking for interviews and posting articles) and a rumored reality TV show in the works if not for the aspect of cannabis being actively involved here. That is no longer the case. If cannabis is supposed to be an integral sacrament, then I would think that having service without it undermines that premise, and probably weakens any subsequent civil or criminal defense.
The Church of Cannabis had all of the momentum shifting in their direction in order to find a way around Indiana’s draconian marijuana laws and now it seems as if they are content with having to remain at the back of the bus. Practicing civil disobedience shows our disdain for unjust laws. If there are enough of us there and they arrest us all- for religious participation this would go down in history. This is our world and the majority of us want cannabis legalized. By doing what you believe is right according to your religious beliefs that is what makes a follower of the faith. Do not back down and submit yourselves to their threats if you believe what you have made sacred to actually be sacred. Every new religion that has stood the test of time has been persecuted, and rejected. Stand up for what you believe and don’t let fear take that from you. You are the people, you are free. Be strong and stand.