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Cannabis Church: It's High Time For A Lawsuit

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Christopher Ayers
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Indiana Public Broadcasting

Indiana’s highly-publicized First Church of Cannabis is going to court, hoping to stop the state from enforcing marijuana laws when it comes to the use of cannabis in its church services. 

The state's so-called "religious freedom" law creates a legal standard that says government must have a compelling reason to restrict someone’s religious practice and do so in the least burdensome way possible. 

First Church of Cannabis attorney Mark Small says Indiana’s laws prohibiting marijuana possession and use prevent church members from fully practicing their religion, even if the church itself is new.

“This religious society has beliefs that are rooted in Native American beliefs and in beliefs of long standing, of people here in the United States for generations,” Small says.

Small says it’s hard to buy the government’s argument that it must restrict marijuana use when other states have legalized the practice.  Church founder Bill Levin says while the lawsuit proceeds, the church will continue its services…without marijuana.

“We’ll celebrate life’s great adventure with love, compassion, and joy in our hearts.  It’s what we do,” Levin says.

Among those named in the lawsuit are Governor Mike Pence, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, and both the Indiana State Police and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. 

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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