Judge rules First Church of Cannabis cannot use weed as religious sacrament

U.S. & World

The mission of Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis to get the state to recognize a religious exemption to the state’s marijuana laws appears to have gone up in smoke, at least for now.

On Friday, Marion County Superior Court Jude Sheryl Lynch ruled that the church could not smoke marijuana as a religious sacrament. The church’s officials filed a lawsuit against the state in 2015, just days after becoming a recognized church in the state, saying that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) should allow for a religious exemption from state and federal laws related to marijuana.

The RFRA is intended to protect individuals from government infringement on the practice of religion unless the government can demonstrate a compelling reason for doing so.

In her opinion, Lynch wrote that such an exemption would make it difficult for authorities to enforce existing drug laws because officers are not trained or equipped to determine the sincerity of an individual’s religious beliefs.

“It would be impossible to combat illicit drug use and trade in a piecemeal fashion that allowed for a religious exception that would become ripe for abuse,” Lynch wrote. “Failure to regulate all marijuana in Indiana would leave a gaping hole in our state’s drug prohibitions. There is just no way to tailor these laws more narrowly without undermining the entire enforcement scheme.”

In a Facebook post, Bill Levin, the founder of the First Church of Cannabis, said the church will be appealing Lynch’s ruling.

“I love you. We lost. We are appealing… and so it goes,” the post reads.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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