First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis uses RFRA in lawsuit over state's marijuana laws

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A pot-smoking church is suing the city of Indianapolis and state of Indiana, claiming laws against possession and use of marijuana infringe on its religious beliefs.

The First Church of Cannabis was formed as a test of Indiana’s new religious objections law. The church filed its lawsuit Wednesday in Marion Circuit Court. The defendants include Gov. Mike Pence and law enforcement officers.

The lawsuit claims church members believe marijuana “brings us closer to ourselves and others.”

There was no marijuana during the church’s first service July 1, which was observed by more than 20 police officers. Local officials had threatened arrests if marijuana was present.


Church of Cannabis suit raises religious liberty issues

Legal experts question whether church can overcome hurdles in challenging Indiana's marijuana laws.

By filing its highly anticipated religious liberty claim Wednesday, the First Church of Cannabis has put the question everyone's been wondering about in the hands of the court:

Is this a real religion?

And does it have a protected right to practice legitimate beliefs?

Some legal experts remain skeptical that the cannabis church's challenge of Indiana's marijuana laws will survive for long in front of a judge. But the case focuses on — if a bit unusually — some of the weighty complexities of religious liberty claims and raises lingering questions over how Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act can and can't be used.


First Church of Cannabis sues over marijuana laws

INDIANAPOLIS –  A pot-smoking church sued the city of Indianapolis and state of Indiana on Wednesday, claiming laws against possession and use of marijuana infringe on its religious beliefs.

The First Church of Cannabis, formed as a test of Indiana's new religious objections law, filed its lawsuit in Marion Circuit Court in Indianapolis, naming multiple defendants including Gov. Mike Pence and state and local law enforcement officers.

The lawsuit claims church members believe marijuana is a sacrament that "brings us closer to ourselves and others. It is our fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression. We embrace it with our whole heart and spirit, individually and as a group."


Church Of Cannabis Holds First Service, Marijuana Smoking Nixed Due To Arrest Threats By ...

The First Church of Cannabis in Indiana has attracted dozens of patrons adorned in tie-dyed clothing and shirts with marijuana leaf emblems. The recently formed Indianapolis church was reportedly formed as a test case for the new Religious Freedom and Restoration Act in the state.


A Cannabis Church Tests Indiana's Religious Freedom Law

The group claims opposition to their pot worship is religious persecution

A church devoted to the legalization of marijuana held its first service in Indianapolis on Wednesday.


Cannabis Church won't have marijuana at first service Wednesday

INDIANAPOLIS — The First Church of Cannabis won’t have cannabis for its inaugural service Wednesday, church founder Bill Levin said on his Facebook page.

Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry and IMPD chief Rick Hite had a news conference Friday (June 26) to warn about arrests if people had marijuana. After that news conference, Levin said it changed nothing about his plans.

On Monday afternoon, though, it did change.

“Right now, we do not want to address this in criminal court, because it’s not a strong hand,” Levin said in an interview with The Indianapolis Star. “If we address this in civil court, we have a stronger hand.”


Cops warn of arrests at Church of Cannabis

Police, prosecutors will discuss enforcement plans for July 1 event

The city's top law enforcements officials put the new First Church of Cannabis on notice Friday: Anyone who smokes marijuana at the inaugural service next week will face criminal charges.

The warning from Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Rick Hite "changes nothing," said Bill Levin, the church's founder, who pledged to move forward with plans for a service at noon Wednesday where marijuana will be smoked.

"They haven't raised the stakes," Levin said. "These have been the stakes the whole time."


Dearborn prosecutor disagrees with Hamilton prosecutor's pro-marijuana legalization stance

LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. – The Dearborn County prosecutor spoke out against legalizing marijuana the day after a task force led by the prosecutor of neighboring Hamilton County released a report touting the benefits of legalizing marijuana in Ohio.

Aaron Negangard, the prosecutor in Dearborn and Ohio counties, told WCPO that he believed the decriminalization trend was largely responsible for “the increased drug problems we’re having.”

“I think it’s an awful idea,” Negangard said. “I think it will lead to greater drug abuse. It will lead to greater crime, and we’re already seeing that.”


Indiana residents beware: Smoke legal pot at your own risk

Hoosiers who try marijuana while visiting states where it's legal may risk breaking the law, or possibly losing their jobs, experts say, if they face a blood or urine draw when they return home.

If you're traveling this summer to a state where marijuana is legal and feel tempted to partake, employment and legal experts say you still may want to think twice before lighting up.

That's because the pot you smoke legally there could wind up causing you big problems back here at home — even days or weeks after the buzz has faded.

The most extreme consequences could be a trip to jail or getting booted from a job:


Indiana Hemp Progress Is Slow Growing

More than a year after Indiana lawmakers legalized a so-called cash crop, the coffers are still empty.

Legislation signed into law in 2014 approved the commercial growth and research of the versatile industrial hemp plant, which is a non-intoxicating form of cannabis.

But lack of federal approval has stalled the state from moving forward.

Jamie Petty, the founder of the Indiana Hemp Industries Association, says the plant could be a boon for Indiana agriculture and manufacturing.

“We have empty factories in Anderson and Kokomo that could be converted,” she says. “It becomes the hemp processing plant.”


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