The church attempted to argue that Indiana's 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act gave members the right to smoke marijuana as a religious sacrament.
(Indianapolis, Ind.) - Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis will not be able to use marijuana as a religious sacrament.
The Marion Superior Court ruled against the church on Friday, finding that members cannot legally smoke marijuana or sell it in their gift shop.
The church was founded in 2015 shortly after Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed into law. Found Bill Levin filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming RFRA allowed church member to smoke marijuana as a matter of religious liberty.
Judge Sheryl Lynch on Friday decided the church does not practice a religion, but is a group of marijuana activists.
“It is compelling and appropriate to treat the illicit drug market in a unitary way,” Lynch stated in the ruling. “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 also questioned where the line is between sacramental and recreation use of marijuana.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill maintains that the First Church of Cannabis is a pro-marijuana legal stunt.
“I appreciate the court’s fidelity to both the law and to common sense,” Attorney General Hill said. “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.”
An appeal of the ruling could be coming. Levin, the self-appointed “Grand Poobah” of the church, posted on Facebook on Saturday: “It's far from over. We are just getting started.”
The church's Facebook page included a post on Saturday stating "Cannabis is safer than Curtis Hill." The post is a quip at sexual assault allegations the attorney general is facing.