The First Church of Cannabis, Inc.
Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, August 7, 2015 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler
Before me is a copy of an official IRS document dated May 21, 2015. It is addressed to The First Church of Cannabis, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, in response to paperwork filed by Bill Levin, who founded the church as a test to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that Governor Mike Pence signed into law March 26th.
It’s the standard reply to applicants awarded Federal Income tax exemption under IRS Code section 501 (c) (3). In addition, this applicant received public charity status and is authorized to receive tax deductible bequests, devices, transfers or gifts under three other sections of the Code. Therefore, contributors may claim tax deductions for donations under section 170 of the federal Code.
Levin explained it this way, “You see, if 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. Remember, under RFRA, the state has to articulate a compelling interest in preventing you from smoking pot. I argue they can’t.”Subsequently, Indiana’s Secretary of State approved the church as a religious corporation and its IRS exemption became effective March 27th.
Within five days Levin had 7,000 Facebook fans, claimed to have $2,000 in donations, and plans to ask members to contribute $4.20 a month once the church is established. They’re looking for “holy ground” where they can use hempcrete – concrete containing hemp – to build a church or temple. Although cannabis is listed as THE sacrament, marijuana was not allowed in its first service at noon Wednesday, July 1st. As for future services, he said, “If someone is smoking in our church, God bless them. This is a church to show a proper way of life, a loving way to live life. We are called ‘cannataerians.” Weekly services are scheduled for each Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.
In Georgia, the Atlanta chapter of Women Grow held a Community Education Event on July 7th. The subject was “professional opportunities for marijuana” and Representative Allen Peake was a featured speaker. Peake, who sponsored the marijuana legislation signed into law by the governor this year, is chairman of a committee whose task is to develop additional marijuana bills for consideration by the Georgia General Assembly in 2016. That’s when they plan to legalize growing and selling marijuana in Georgia. For Georgia Insight, I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.