The First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis filed a lawsuit against the state of Indiana on Wednesday over marijuana laws, claiming that the state is infringing upon its religious beliefs. The suit claims that Indiana’s laws that make possessing marijuana or visiting a place where it is used a punishable offense put pressure on the church’s existence and violate the state and the U.S. constitutions.
No marijuana was present at the church’s first service, held on July 1, as police officials had threatened arrest if marijuana was found. The service was attended by over 100 people and monitored by more than 20 police officers, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The church’s second service was conducted on Wednesday.
Church members reportedly believe that marijuana is a sacrament that "brings us closer to ourselves and others. It is our fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression. We embrace it with our whole heart and spirit, individually and as a group."
The church was founded the day the state signed the religious objections measure into law. Bill Levin, 59, founder of the church, said at a news conference, according to the AP: "We are taking legal action today to ensure love has no barriers in our land."
"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. 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," he added.
Other defendants named in the lawsuit include 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, USA Today reported.
The church is located at 3400 S Rural Street in Indianapolis.