Maureen Hayden, ‘Pot’ church wins tax-exempt status, CNHI State Reporter

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.

Levin organized the church in March and recruited board members shortly after the state General Assembly passed the divisive Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is also set to go into effect July 1.

The Secretary of State has already officially recognized the church as a religious, non-profit corporation, according to state officials, with the stated intent “to start a church based on love and understanding with compassion for all.”

But a court fight may also be looming. Tenets of the church include consuming cannabis on a daily basis as a sacrament.

Marijuana is currently illegal in Indiana for both recreational and medical use. Levin started the church to test the application of the new law that bans government from interfering with the exercise of religion.

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