First Church of Cannabis
|First Church of Cannabis|
First Church of Cannabis building
|Type||Cannabis-based new religious movement|
|Grand Poobah||Bill Levin|
|Founder||Bill "Grand Poobah" Levin|
|Origin||March 26, 2015 |
|Congregations||1 (3400 South Rural Street, Indianapolis)|
|Tax status||501(c)(3) tax-exempt|
The First Church of Cannabis was founded in March 2015 by Bill Levin, who attended Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, a Reform Judaism synagogue, as a child, and titles himself Grand Poobah of the church. He said it was a direct response to the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Monthly dues are $4.20. Levin said that the church was granted IRS tax-exempt status less than 30 days after he applied.
Bill Levin - the self-appointed "Grand Poobah" or highest holy official of the church, claimed that he had the idea to found the church while watching the popular television series: The Flintstones. Grand Poobah is a term derived from the name of the haughty character Pooh-Bah in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado (1885), and used recurringly in The Flintstones as the name of a high-ranking elected position in a secret society, the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes.
Media interest in the church is high, with thousands of reported print articles and features on CNN and Fox News. The group planned to test RFRA on July 1, 2015, with a service in Indiana including the use of cannabis. However, legal threats from the city forced the first service to not use marijuana at all. The service went without any arrests, even with a heavy police presence, although there were protesters from a nearby Christian church. Parking was restricted, as the police argued that they were enforcing a city law on parking on a street less than 24 feet wide. Nearby residents also restricted parking on their property, although at least one person allowed parking for a small fee. The service featured a comedian, live music, and dancing. Food trucks were outside along with a merchandise table selling t-shirts and stickers.
A security camera was installed outside of the church on the first day of service. City officials argued that the camera was installed to ensure public safety. Levin retorted by saying "I find it flattering. If you think we are important enough to install a camera so you can have a guy watch us 24 hours a day, good! Good! You're spending our Hoosier tax money proper."
The group's meetinghouse is located at a former Christian church building on South Rural Street in Indianapolis. Services are held every Wednesday at 7.
The legal status of the Church of Cannabis' use of marijuana in a jurisdiction where it is illegal, but the Religious Freedom Restoration Act holds, has been debated by legal experts. The Supreme Court case set forth certain criteria in U.S. v. Meyers that may or may not match fourteen criteria listed by the Internal Revenue Service in granting tax-exempt status. Several days after its first service, the Church sued both the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis, claiming that the present marijuana laws infringed on their religious beliefs. This case was dismissed on summary judgement and again on appeal.
The Deity Dozen are a set of guidelines put forth by the Church.
- 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 mins a day just contemplating life in a quiet space.
- Protect those who can not 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.
- Amanda Borschel-Dan (June 9, 2015), "Meet the Jewish grand poobah of the First Church of Cannabis", The Times of Israel
- Sarah Pulliam Bailey (March 30, 2015), "The First Church of Cannabis was approved after Indiana's religious freedom law was passed", The Washington Post
- "Church Of Marijuana Gets Boost From Indiana's Anti-Gay 'Religious Freedom' Bill", Huffington Post, March 30, 2015
- Joanna Prisco (June 15, 2015), For First Church of Cannabis, Ganja is Godly, Good Morning America – via ABC News
- Alexandra Klausner (June 7, 2015), "Church dedicated to worshiping marijuana 'as a health supplement' forms in Indiana (but it is still prohibited in state)", Daily Mail
- Vincent Funaro (June 8, 2015), "Indiana Marijuana Church Releases Its Own Ten Commandments; 'The New Deity Dozen'", The Christian Post
- Sarah Ridley (June 14, 2015), "The First Church of Cannabis: New religious group preaches the healing powers of pot", Daily Mirror
- "Cops warn of arrests at Church of Cannabis". Indianapolis Star. June 26, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
- Mark Alesia and GabFerreira (July 1, 2015). "Humor, love, police a strange mix at Cannabis Church". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
- "Security camera goes up outside First Church of Cannabis". WISH-TV. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
- John Tuohy (June 9, 2015), "Indy's Cannabis Church finds a home", Indianapolis Star
- Robert W. Wood (June 1, 2015), "IRS Approves First Church Of Cannabis. What's Next For Marijuana?", Forbes
- Jay Michaelson (May 29, 2015), "Indiana's First Church of Pot", The Daily Beast
- "First Church of Cannabis founder sues Indiana and Marion County over marijuana laws". Fox 59. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
- The First Church of Cannabis, Inc., Bill Levin, Herbert Neal Smith, et al v. State of Indiana, Governor Mike Pence, Attorney General Gregory F. Zoeller, et al (Marion Circuit Court, Indiana November 9, 2018). Text
- The First Church of Cannabis, Inc., et al v. State of Indiana, et al (Indiana Court of Appeals April 9, 2019). Text
- "The Deity Dozen - The First Church of Cannabis". cannaterian.org. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
- "Indiana Marijuana Church Releases Its Own Ten Commandments; 'The New Deity Dozen'". Christian Post. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
- Jasmine Jaksic (April 27, 2015). "Six Modern Religions for Freethinkers". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 18, 2015.