In a classic case of "unintended consequences," the recently signed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana may have opened the door for the establishment of the First Church of Cannabis in the Hoosier State.
While Governor Mike Pence (R) was holding a signing ceremony for the bill allowing businesses and individuals to deny services to gays on religious grounds or values, paperwork for the First Church of Cannabis Inc. was being filed with the Secretary of State's office, reports RTV6.
Church 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."
Levin is currently seeking $4.20 donations towards his non-profit church.
According to Indiana attorney and political commentator Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, 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.
Shabazz pointed out that it is still illegal to smoke pot in Indiana, but wrote, "I would argue that under RFRA, as long as you can show that reefer is part of your religious practices, you got a pretty good shot of getting off scot-free."
Noting that RFRA supporters say the bill "only spells out a test as to whether a government mandate would unduly burden a person’s faith and the government has to articulate a compelling interest for that rule and how it would be carried out in the least restrictive manner," Shabazz contends the law may tie the state's hands.
"So, with that said, what 'compelling interest' would the state of Indiana have to prohibit me from using marijuana as part of my religious practice?" he asked. " I would argue marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and wine used in religious ceremonies. Marijuana isn’t any more '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 and buy hard liquor. (At least not on Sunday.)"
Shabazz concluded, "I want a front row seat at the trial that we all know is going to happen when all this goes down."