NewsLocal News / June 26, 2015

Patrons of Church of Cannabis Face Arrest, Prosecutor Says

Anyone who smokes, possesses, or hands out marijuana, or even shows up, at the First Church of Cannabis' inaugural services planned for Wednesday could be arrested or face other charges, police and the Marion County prosecutor warn.First Church of Cannabis, Bill Levin, Religious Freedom Restoration Act2015-06-26T00:00:00-04:00
Patrons of Church of Cannabis Face Arrest, Prosecutor Says

Brett Levin/via Flickr

Anyone who smokes, possesses, or hands out marijuana, or even shows up, at the First Church of Cannabis' inaugural services planned for Wednesday could be arrested or face other charges, police and the Marion County prosecutor warn.

Terry Curry, the county prosecutor, and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Rick Hite Friday morning threatened any potential followers of the church of cannabis with legal action and compelled people to stay away from next week's service. 

The state's recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act "does not create any sort of immunity" to marijuana laws, Curry said at a press conference.

Curry and Levin has spoken several times in recent days. Curry has tried to persuade Levin from holding the gathering and has suggested only a few people opening smoke marijuana and allow themselves to be charged to test the law, instead of a mass toking of pot, which neighbors and officials fear will be the case.

IMPD will treat the church service like any other large gathering and will be present, Hite said. Police will likely be inside the church too.

"This is not the way to challenge a law and you certainly can’t expect police to stand by and let it happen and not do anything about it," chief Hite said.

The RFRA goes into full affect on July 1, the day church founder Bill Levin plans to have his first service. He told WFYI he still fully plans to hold that service. "There's no question about that. It's religious freedom," Levin said.

All are welcome, Levin said, though people on probation should probably stay away.

Levin's church was issued tax-exempt status earlier this month and already has over 700 members. He's leased an old church building on Indianapolis' south side.

Levin says he was inspired by the state's religious freedom to create the church, which will be direct challenge. Marijuana use of any kind is illegal in Indiana, but RFRA protects individuals from government interference in their religious practices.

Curry blames the RFRA with creating the situation, saying "I am beyond frustrated that we are having to devote valuable time and resources to this matter, solely because of an ill-advised and unnecessary law enacted by our legislature."

 

 

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