Indiana’s new anti-gay “religious freedom” law is already having unintended consequences: The First Church of Cannabis will soon be a sanctuary for pot smokers in Indiana who want to avoid the long arm of the law.
Marijuana is currently illegal in Indiana for both medical and recreational use. However, the new Religious Freedom Restoration Act prevents state government from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion, and The First Church of Cannabis has just been officially recognized by Indiana’s Secretary of State.
First Church of Cannabis 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.
Raw Story reports Indiana legislators, in their haste to protect the religious values and practices of their constituents, may have unwittingly put the state in an awkward position with those who profess to smoke pot as a religious sacrament.
According to attorney Abdul-Hakim Shabazz “as long as you can show that reefer is part of your religious practices” you should be legally protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act:
What ‘compelling interest’ would the state of Indiana have to prohibit me from using marijuana as part of my religious practice? I would argue marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and wine used in religious ceremonies. Marijuana isn’t anymore ‘addictive’ than alcohol and wine is used in some religious ceremonies. And marijuana isn’t any more of a ‘gateway’ drug than the wine used in a religious ceremony will make you go out any buy hard liquor. (At least not on Sunday.)
While it is amusing to think of the irony of mean-spirited conservative Christians paving the way for peace-loving pot-smokers to legally partake of the weed, Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is no laughing matter.
The new law is ugly, and is designed to permit conservative Christians to discriminate against LGBT people and others when such discrimination aligns with their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Theoretically, the law would allow restaurants to refuse to serve gay or interracial couples, hotels could refuse to provide lodging for Jews, landlords could refuse to rent to African Americans, pharmacies could refuse to dispense birth control to women, and employers could fire anyone, so long as such behavior was justified by “sincerely held religious belief.”
As for the First Church of Cannabis: People should be free to smoke marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes without the need of joining a church to skirt the law.