INDIANAPOLIS —The First Church of Cannabis filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the state of Indiana and city of Indianapolis, challenging state laws on possession and use of marijuana as infringing upon religious beliefs.
The complaint, filed in Marion County Circuit Court, contends that cannabis is the church's sacrament and its members believe marijuana "brings us closer to ourselves and others."
"We are taking legal action today to ensure love has no barriers in our land," said Bill Levin, Church of Cannabis founder, in front of the Indiana Statehouse.
"Today we invite the state of Indiana and all its leaders to joyfully meet us in a court of law for clarifications on our core religious values," he said. "We look forward to engaging them on the high plane of dignity and discipline, with love and compassion in our hearts, to find a swift and sensible answer for our questions of religious equality."
Under the state's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which took effect July 1, the government must prove it is enforcing a compelling interest in the least restrictive way if a person claims an undue burden on religious liberty. The Church of Cannabis had its first service July 1 but said its members would not use cannabis after law enforcement warned that police would arrest anyone who smoked pot.
Its second service will be at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Attorney General Greg Zoeller, Superintendent Douglas G. Carter of Indiana State Police, Indianapolis Police Chief Rick Hite, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Marion County Sheriff John Layton also are defendants in the lawsuit.
By Stephanie Wang - USA Today/July 8, 2015