The freedom of religion doesn’t apply to a church full of cannabis consumers, a judge recently ruled. On July 6, Marion County Superior Court Judge Sheryl Lynch ruled that members of The First Church of Cannabis will not be exempt from cannabis laws under Indiana’ religious freedom law.
The First Church of Cannabis incorporates its own version of the Ten Commandments entitled “Deity Dozen,” and considers cannabis to be its holiest sacrament.
Members of the church filed a lawsuit against the state of Indiana in 2015, claiming that they can consume cannabis under Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Former Indiana Gov. and Vice President Mike Pence, for instance, was a supporter of RFRA. The scope of RFRA is not always clear, but protects religions from infringement by the government unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.
The judge explained that the lack of a security plan invites criminal activity. “It would be impossible to combat illicit drug use and trade in a piecemeal fashion that allowed for a religious exception that would become ripe for abuse,” Lynch wrote. “Failure to regulate all marijuana in Indiana would leave a gaping hole in our state’s drug prohibitions. There is just no way to tailor these laws more narrowly without undermining the entire enforcement scheme.”
Other churches have attempted to legalize cannabis consumption on grounds of religious freedom. For instance, the Rastafari-based Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church gained popularity during the ‘70s in Florida, but offering cannabis as a sacrament didn’t always end well. Some members were charged with serious smuggling charges.