Indiana Judge Says No To Cannabis As Sacrament; First Church Of Cannabis Will Appeal

By Neal Smith, Chairman Indiana NORML

INDIANA: Marion County Superior Court Judge Lynch has ruled that the First Church of Cannabis may not use Cannabis as a sacrament, based on a false report issued by a federal agency. The Church maintains that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed the Indiana General Assembly in 2015, the Church has the right to use cannabis is a sacrament. The State of Indiana disagrees.

The State, led by Attorney General Curtis Hill, based their testimony on the lies and half-truths of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Task Force report on Cannabis. The vast majority of the report’s statements about Cannabis have been soundly refuted.  Yet, Judge Lynch fell for it. Anyone who has done even a modicum of research knows that Robert DuPont, long time federal government prohibitionist figurehead, has repeatedly been proven a liar.

Grand Poohbah Bill Levin

First Church of Cannabis Grand Poohbah Bill Levin

From Judge Lynch’s decision: “Numerous scientific studies have shown that marijuana use “causes impairment in every performance area that can reasonably be connected with safe driving of a vehicle, such as tracking, motor coordination, visual functions, and particularly complex tasks that require divided attention[.]” Ex. 15, DuPont Dec. at fl9. Unsurprisingly, then; marijuana “ranks second (26.9%), only to alcohol (30.6%), in a study on the presence of drugs in accidents involving seriously injured drivers.” EX. 15, DuPont Dec. at11 10.14.”

This point has been disproven.

Also from Lynch’s decision: “In addition, if RFRA affords an exception to the prohibition against marijuana possession, it would be unclear whether state law enforcement officers would be permitted to use the scent of marijuana or plants or paraphernalia in plain View as probable cause for a search warrant.” Ex. 13, Hobson Dec. at 117. Such indicators traditionally have been “obvious sources of probable cause[,]” but a religious exception to the marijuana laws could render them ‘questionable[.]’ Ex. 13, Hobson Dec. at fl 7.”

In other words, law enforcement would actually have to do a proper investigation rather than grabbing the “low-hanging fruit.”

AG Hill, an extreme prohibitionist, seems only content in putting forth any information that supports his views, whether accurate or not. The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council has also supported their tenuous position with the Rocky Mountain report. Indiana NORML has repeatedly pointed out the flaws in the report to no avail. It’s obvious they have no regards for truth in this matter. Does that make you wonder about their competency in other investigations?

Why would they go to this extent of lying and accepting lies as truth? Cannabis arrests bring in money to the system. Fines, probation fees, government grants, civil asset forfeiture and state kickbacks and contributions from private prison groups. Who needs civil liberties when there is money to be made?

The First Church of Cannabis will appeal the decision.

 

The Wink In Weed: The Midwest Leg Of ‘Cannafest Destiny’ Tours The Heartland

By David Rheins

So much attention is spent on the great progress that is being made on the East Coast, that we sometimes forget to acknowledge the truly historic changes that are transforming the country’s heartland.  As wise approach this Independence Day, those of us in the marijuana reform movement and legal cannabis industry have much to celebrate.  Roll fireworks, spark legal sparklers.

I grew up in the conservative Midwest dreaming of more.  Weaned on the music and poetry of Bob Dylan and John Lennon, rock & roll and marijuana sustained me during my formative years in the Indiana of the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, Midwesterners had little hope that legalization would ever really come to our bible belt.  Hell, you couldn’t even buy beer on Sundays, or buy a lottery ticket in the Hoosier state.

As soon as I could, I fled the flatlands of Indiana– first for the Central African Republic as a Peace Corp volunteer, and later to the libertine coastal towns of New York City and Seattle. In New York, I learned the business of media and marketing. At Rolling Stone Magazine, and SPIN and AOL Time Warner, I received a first-class education on building pop culture brands and established a network of lifetime friends and colleagues.

Since Colorado and Washington first voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in late 2012, the legal cannabis market has grown from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $2.7 billion last year, according to industry estimates. That kind of velocity gets the attention of investors, many of whom focus on tech.

MJBA has provided a safe place for professionals in legal cannabis to build the industry and establish best practices.

In Seattle, I found my people in a culture of bountiful marijuana and progressive politics.  The Pacific Northwest was where the hippies washed up.  In the cool forests and high-tech valleys of the Puget Sound, I found a society that had socialized, if not yet fully legalized, the use of cannabis. The PNW was rich in cannabis culture, and with extensive plant expertise, and established community, but no real business infrastructure. With legalization, and the complexities of compliance that come with it, we established the Marijuana Business Association to meet the many needs of those early business pioneers. We were privileged to be able to help establish one of the first legal cannabis markets, and a build a very vibrant community of cannabis business professionals that has allowed us to take that knowledge and expertise across the country as new markets opened.

Now, five years after those first market places began, we have established legal cannabis communities on both Coasts, and even in the Midwest.  Public opinion is firmly on our side, and even Congress has come around – with several bills currently circulating with bi-partisan support that will further unravel the age of prohibition.  By every indication, the country is moving towards legalizing marijuana for both medical and commercial use. The Senate, led by Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, has passed the 2018 Farm Bill which includes Hemp farming provisions that De-schedule Hemp and allow American hemp farmers to take advantage of a booming global market (insert link). We are about to embark on the hemp century, and that portends great things for the Midwest.

What a great time then to steer the CannaFest Destiny Tour – the educational tour that Curved Papers and the MJBA have been on for the last two years – to Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

Curved Papers is a national sponsor of The Marijuana Business Association.

Curved Papers is a national sponsor of The Marijuana Business Association.

We began our trip in Michigan, the land of a thousand dispensaries.  Second largest medical cannabis market in the country — with more than 300,000 patients — Michiganders will vote on full legalization in November, and the local cannabis activists are feeling confident in success.

But for now, Michigan and the High Times Cannabis Cup was all about Medical Marijuana.  For starters, you had to be 18+, and possess a medical card to get in. We arrive at the racetrack in the pouring rain.  Navigating the muddy parking lot, we are greeted with long lines and quickly learn that there is a strict, if indecipherable, wristband hierarchy in play.  Super VIPs have replaced VIPs.  And If you ain’t Super VIP, you are only slightly above the great unwashed.  A strict canna-class system is in full evidence:  High Times hogs ride around on ATVs, vested security guards checks wristbands to ensure to unauthorized entrance into meager VIP – with its tubs of free Flynt Water Bottles water, a free t-shirt, and a place to get sit down and medicate – and slightly better Super VIP tented areas.

michael with mjba button

High Times Michigan was held at the Auto City Raceway in Clio, a former dirt track turned asphalt flea market for weed smokers, er I mean, patients.  The venue was packed, despite the rain, and the track was lined with every flavor of entrepreneurs eager to serve a hungry crowd. Corn dogs and infused coffee, dabs (called wax in Michigan), edibles and local flower, lots of flower were available in an endless circle of booths and trailers.  Just don’t look for alcohol.  Despite the permanent venue advertising that lined the track, there was no booze available at the track.  Instead, we found the nicest crowd you ever saw – a blissed out army of stoned zombies gathered together for a day of smoking marijuana and singing songs in the Midwest muck. We had a blast.

After two days in at the laidback track, we made our way southward to Cleveland, Ohio.  The vibe changed drastically once we crossed the border into the Buckeye State. Despite passing into law two years ago, medical marijuana remains legal, but unavailable.  Through corruption and incompetence, the state has hemmed, hawed and delayed the process so that the mandated September launch will be pushed back for who knows how long. As a result, the members of the cannabis community – advocates, educators, patients and healthcare professionals – are justifiably frustrated.

2018-Generic-Badge-RWBThis was the setting for the inaugural meetup of the MJBA Cleveland chapter.  Sponsored by MaryJane Staffing Agency and hosted at the offices of Meyers Roman, the event was attended by a small but passionate crowd of lawyers, entrepreneurs, educators and advocates, and covered in the Cannabis Business Times.

Attorney Steven Baden gave the attendees an overview of where the state stood with the rollout of its medical marijuana program (he expects delays to last until the first of the year), and MaryJane President Michelle Blank outlined the hundreds of new jobs and career opportunities for participants in Ohio’s legal cannabis system.  Entrepreneur Michael O’Malley shared his story of innovation, and opportunity for product marketers in the lucrative ancillary arena.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhQZhfvZATg]

Back to the beginning of my personal quest, Indiana is also the last frontier for legal cannabis. But even in Pence’s Indiana, there are rays of freedom breaking through.   The current Governor has signed the law legalizing CBD, and a few brave politicians are standing up for legalization.  At the First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis, Grand Poohbah Bill Levin is awaiting a judge’s decision that could legalize Cannabis as a religious sacrament.

But for now, there is no cannabis in sight as the Cannafest Destiny Tour participated in the Church’s weekly Wednesday services.  Before the services, we receive a call to remind those of us from legal states that we cannot bring our weed onto church grounds.

But inside the classic Indiana Church building, a warm congregation (made even warmer as the air conditioning was on the fritz on the hot and humid Hoosier evening) welcomed us.  In addition to an inspiring sermon by Grand Poohbah Levin, we are treated to testimony from Indiana NORML Chairman Neil Smith, and members of the congregation. Curved Papers founder Michael O’Malley delivered an inspiring talk about the birth of a cannabis brand, and I was able to tell my personal story.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfGnKHeZpIM]
As we left Indiana, the congregants of the First Church of Cannabis are on pins and needles. (as we publish this, the Judge has pushed back the date to render her decision until July 9th).  Levin, ever the advocate for LOVE, told me that he is confident that history is on his side.

Stay tuned to these pages…

Minnesota Woman Asks Court To Allow Marijuana Use Per Indiana Church Beliefs

MINNESOTA: A Minnesota woman accused of violating probation says she should be able to use marijuana for religious reasons because she belongs to a pot-smoking church based in Indiana.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports 31-year-old Ashley Firnschild argues to the Hennepin County District Court that marijuana laws place an “undue burden” on her beliefs as a First Church of Cannabis member. The Golden Valley woman is accused of smoking marijuana and violating her probation on a drug charge.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement that the First Amendment doesn’t protect possessing or smoking marijuana.

The church was established earlier this year in a test of Indiana’s new religious objections law. It has sued the city of Indianapolis and state of Indiana, claiming laws against possessing and using marijuana infringe on its religious beliefs.

First Church of Cannabis Files Suit

INDIANA:The First Church of Cannabis is going to court for the right to use marijuana as part of its sacrament under Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration law.

The suit, filed in Marion County Court, is asking for an injunction against the state and city of Indianapolis to prohibit members of TFCC from being prosecuted for using marijuana as part of their sacrament.

Attorney Mark Small says that under RFRA, the state’s marijuana law put an undue burden on his clients when it comes to practicing their faith and he adds the government does not have a compelling interest in limiting their religious liberty.

You can hear Small’s comments in the Leon-Tailored Audio above, as well as TFCC founder, Bill Levin.  It runs under 10 minutes.

 

Meet The Jewish Grand Poobah Of The First Church Of Cannabis

INDIANA: Athough he grew up at the Reform-affiliated Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, Bill Levin recently founded a church. And not just any church — the First Church of Cannabis, for which Levin will serve as the Minister of Love.

Sound like a joke? Not to Levin, although he tends to refer to himself in church dealings as the Grand Poobah. And apparently it’s no joke as well to government bureaucracy: the church was approved by Indiana’s secretary of state Connie Lawson in March and recognized last week by the IRS as a tax-exempt religious organization.

The Times of Israel caught Levin in a phone conversation in his new premises on the south side of Indianapolis. The area, known for tattoo parlors and head shops, is home to a 150-seat sanctuary that has been used as a church for the past several decades.

 

‘Pot’ Church Wins Tax-Exempt Status

INDIANA:Peace, love, pot and a tax deduction.

It’s not exactly the Holy Trinity but it’s what the First Church of Cannabis hopes to offer supporters now that it’s incorporated as a tax-exempt religious organization.

Bill Levin, who founded the church to test Indiana’s new religious freedom law, was notified earlier this week that the Internal Revenue Service has granted his request for a status that allows donors to deduct contributions on their taxes. IRS documents provided by Levin confirm the agency’s approval.

“It means people in higher tax brackets will be more generous with the church,” said Levin, a longtime marijuana legalization advocate in Indianapolis. “There have been people who want us to succeed but they’ve been waiting us to get our 501(c)3 exemption.”

Levin’s new church may need the money: It’s still looking for a place to lease so it can hold its first church service on July 1, when Levin promises that worshippers “will light up” and fill the sanctuary with marijuana smoke.

 

Marijuana Church Ruled Tax Exempt

INDIANA:  Indiana passed a Religious Freedom Act, which critics say allows discrimination of gay people. However, there is another unintended side effect, where The First Church of Cannabis is now allowed to smoke marijuana and have tax exempt status, even though weed is not legal in the state. Ben Mankiewicz (What The Flick?), Jimmy Dore (The Jimmy Dore Show), and Ana Kasparian (The Point) hosts of The Young Turks discuss.

“Indiana’s marijuana-smoking church has been incorporated as a tax-exempt religious organization by the Internal Revenue Service according to the church’s founder.

Bill Levin, the founder of the First Church of Cannabis, a controversial group looking to test the limits of Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act by indulging in the smoking of marijuana during “church” services said the IRS notified him earlier this week about the group’s tax will allow donors to deduct their contributions.

“It means people in higher tax brackets will be more generous with the church,” said Levin to News and Tribune. “There have been people who want us to succeed but they’ve [been]waiting [on]our 501©3 exemption.”

 

 

Indiana Church Plans Pot-Smoking Worship Service In Test Of Religious Freedom

INDIANA:  Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis plans to host its inaugural worship service July 1, the same day the state’s controversial religious freedom law takes effect. If all goes according to plan, the service will offer a bold test of the law’s ban on government burdens on the exercise of religion.

Adherents of the recently established church worship cannabis, which is illegal to grow, use or possess under state law.

The first service, church founder Bill Levin says, will open with “Amazing Grace” played on harmonica by a popular young musician and move to a quick sermon and short member testimonies about positive things that happened in the past week.

And then, as anticipation mounts in what’s likely to be a packed house, Levin will issue a call to worship and the sanctuary will fill with smoke.

Whoops: Indiana’s Anti-Gay ‘Religious Freedom’ Act Opens The Door For The First Church of Cannabis

INDIANA:  In a classic case of “unintended consequences,” the recently signed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana may have opened the door for the establishment of the First Church of Cannabis in the Hoosier State.

While Governor Mike Pence (R) was holding a signing ceremony for the bill allowing businesses and individuals to deny services to gays on religious grounds or values, paperwork for the First Church of Cannabis Inc. was being filed with the Secretary of State’s office, reports RTV6.

Church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that the church’s registration has been approved, writing, “Status: Approved by Secretary of State of Indiana – “Congratulations your registration has been approved!” Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.”

Levin is currently seeking $4.20 donations towards his non-profit church.