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Marijuana as a religion – an insight into the Church of Cannabis

Religious expression is a wonderful thing. As a result of this basic human right, there are numerous different religions and groups – each believing a variety of theories about existence and how we came to be on this planet.

In the United States, the most prominent religion is Christianity while less mainstream groups, such as Scientology, have been heavily featured in the public domain over recent years. However, have you heard about the Church of Cannabis?

Holding its first service last week, the organisation was formed in Indiana after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act came into force throughout the state. Although designed to protect the religious rights of businesses, this law has come under much criticism as it would technically allow – for example – homophobic individuals to refuse to serve the LGBT community under religious grounds.

Despite marijuana being illegal in Indiana, the Church of Cannabis was formed by its founder, Bill Levin, to protest against the act. Testing how far the law would go, his theory was that setting up a marijuana religion was now allowed and the government had no right to intervene – as to do so would violate Bill’s religious beliefs.

Turns out this theory was accurate, as the Church of Cannabis has now been officially recognised as a charity by the state. Calling themselves ‘Cannabiterians’ the group preaches respect and tolerance as well as general positivity. Quoted in the New York Times, Bill stated that his faith was “an honest-to-God religion” and added: “Other religions have sins and guilt. We’re going to have a really big love-in.”

What happens in the Church of Cannabis?

Similar to many religions, the church has several commandments which its members are encouraged to adhere to. According to a report on the group, these terms are:

  • Don't be an a**hole. Treat everyone with love, as an equal.
  • The day starts with your smile every morning. When you get up, wear it first.
  • Help others when you can. Not for money, but because it's needed.
  • Treat your body as a temple. Do not poison it with poor quality foods and sodas.
  • Do not take advantage of people. Do not intentionally hurt anything.
  • Never start a fight, only finish them.
  • Grow food, raise animals, get nature into your daily routine.
  • Do not be a ‘troll’ on the Internet; respect others without name-calling and being vulgarly aggressive.
  • Spend at least 10 minutes a day just contemplating life in a quiet space.
  • When you see a bully, stop them by any means possible. Protect those who cannot protect themselves.
  • Laugh often, share humour. Have fun in life, be positive.
  • Cannabis, ‘the Healing Plant’, is our sacrament. It 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.

Of course, this movement did not just start overnight. The organisation was founded through an online campaign and so far more than $15,000 has been raised to kick-start it. Furthermore, these funds should hopefully allow the group to claim a permanent headquarters once enough money has been raised.

As the Church of Cannabis has officially been recognised as a charity, this also means these donations and membership fees – around $50 for one year – are tax-free.

Unfortunately, given the laws surrounding marijuana in Indiana, as well as the government’s choices in passing the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the group’s future is largely uncertain. With any luck, the faith and its members will continue to enjoy many wonderful years in business – but I’m probably not the only one thinking they’re on shaky ground.

MSNL Team MSNL Team / 14th July 2015

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