INDIANAPOLIS -- At a church building on Indianapolis’ east side, the new religious freedom law is getting a different kind of acknowledgment – as the First Church of Cannabis prepares for its inaugural ceremony. Church founder Bill Levin created the church as a possible test case for the new law.
He backed off plans to use the namesake herb in the service after police threatened to arrest people for smoking or possessing marijuana. Now Levin says he plans to file a lawsuit, because he believes the new law gives church members a right to use marijuana in its ceremonies, even though it’s illegal in Indiana.
"We look forward to meeting this issue and solving the problem in court," Levin said Wednesday as he prepared for the ceremony.
Police posted dozens of "no parking" signs in the neighborhood around the church building, and some neighbors said they planned to make those who attended feel unwelcome.
While Levin, a longtime entrepreneur and marijuana activist, has gotten worldwide attention for his Church of Cannabis, many legal experts said he faces long odds of winning the legal argument that their marijuana use is a sincerely held religious belief that shouldn’t be infringed upon by the government.
WFYI is on the scene to cover the story. Follow Jill Sheridan, @JillASheridan; Christopher Ayers, @WFYI Chris; and Melissa Davis, @MelissaWFYI, for updates via Twitter and Periscope.