Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed legislation last Thursday in a private ceremony closed to both the public and the press. “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act” will allow both individuals and corporations to state their religious beliefs as a defense upon being sued by a private party, as reported in detail by The Huffington Post.
Pence has stated, “Many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action” in defense of the signing. However, many people think the act will lead to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender individuals. Despite the obvious downsides of the legislation receiving congressional signatures, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has opened up an arena of loopholes that Governor Pence and his supporters may have overlooked.
Innovative cannabis activists are now using the bill and the protective measures it offers to lay down the foundations for the First Church of Cannabis, with members known as Cannabitarians. This religious institution would enable participants to liberally use cannabis as a sacrament to their faith in a state where it is currently a controlled and banned substance. The church’s founder, Bill Levin, commented on the causes’ Facebook page in regards to the successful approval of the church’s registration:
“Approved by Secretary of State of Indiana — ‘Congratulations, your registrations has been approved!’ Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.”
Levin also points out in the Facebook post that the church is currently accepting donations in the amount of $4.20.
During an interview with The Huffington Post, Levin said, “It has nothing to do with God; I don’t have the balls to describe a god to anybody… This is a god-filled or godless religion — it’s entirely up to you.”
Levin describes the way cannabis is used as a sacrament within this recently founded religious sect to be almost like that of the Rastafarian’s, only without a hierarchical structure topped by a deity. Instead he said the church is founded upon universal principals of love, respect, equality and compassion.
In another statement during the interview, Levin described his views on ancient religions that are still practiced reverently today, in a manner doused in humor:
“All these old religions, guys walking across the desert without Dr. Scholl’s inserts, drinking wine out of goat bladders, no compass, speaking Latin and Hebrew — I cannot relate to that shit. I drive by Burger Kings, bars and cornfields. I cannot relate to an antique magic book.”
The idea of this church was founded upon grounds that far surpasses the exploitation of a legal loophole as a practical joke. Levin has strong views about cannabis as a tool to promote love and positivity. The church shares many parallels with other, older religions in both structure and practice. For one, it has its own religious text. The chosen tome, described by Levin as “The Good Book” is none other than The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy, the 1985 classic written by Jack Herer about the history of cannabis and “how hemp can save the world.” In addition to the chosen scripture, Levin has also written up what he calls the “New Deity Dozen.” These are the 12 principles that are completely optional for followers to abide, as reported again by The Huffington Post:
- Don’t be an asshole. Treat everyone with love as an equal.
- The day starts with your smile every morning when you get up, wear it first.
- Help others when you can. Not for money, but because it’s needed.
- Treat your body as a temple. Do not poison it with poor quality foods and sodas.
- Do not take advantage of people. Do not intentionally hurt anything.
- Never start a fight… only finish them.
- Grow food, raise animals, get nature into your daily routine.
- Do not be a “troll” on the internet, respect others without name calling and being vulgarly aggressive.
- Spend at least 10 minutes a day just contemplating life in a quiet space.
- When you see a bully… stop them by any means possible. Protect those who cannot protect themselves.
- Laugh often, share humor. Have fun in life, be positive.
- Cannabis, “the Healing Plant” is our sacrament. It 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.
Levin strongly opposes The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, yet is still making full use of the loopholes that have surfaced because of its passing. Although cannabis is still illegal within the state of Indiana, there are high hopes (quite literally) that the act will offer protection for those choosing to use cannabis as a religious sacrament. Despite the obvious risk of failure, Levin has gone all out with his attempts at making the church a reality. Within a period of three days a crowd funding effort backing the church has already raised over $3,000. The funds will contribute to leasing a space for worship.