INDIANAPOLIS (July 1, 2015) – One the first day of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law, the First Church of Cannabis gathered a new group of faithful.
Yet the church’s sacrament was missing in deed.
But not in word.
“He had two words,” a member said. “I’ve got just two: Legalize it.”
Church founder Bill Levin, the self-proclaimed Grand Poobah and Minister of Love, decided earlier this week marijuana would not be welcome Wednesday after intense pressure from police and prosecutors threatening arrests if anyone lit up.
“Now the government needs to help me because I want to live,” Diane Richey said, telling the crowd medical marijuana has saved her life.
The fact no one smoked, and police made no arrests, didn’t stop the spectacle that’s brought worldwide attention to Indiana.
The group Cop Block handed out flyers outside the church, encouraging everyone to videotape any encounters with police.
IMPD had officers lined for blocks.
"IMPD’s presence at today’s event was to ensure that the laws set forth by the State of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis were adhered to, and to carry out the department’s duty to ensure the safety of all individuals and community members," Chief Rick Hite said in a statement Wednesday evening. "Overall, today’s event was very civil and peaceful and culminated with zero arrests or any other law enforcement action by IMPD."
Neighbors barricaded their yards from church-goers using police tape and protesters assembled their own gathering.
“We’re taking a stand against individuals and churches that would want to commit a crime under a disguise of a name of a church,” Britain Jenkins said.
In one week, the First Church of Cannabis will gather again.
“It’s the first church service I’ve actually enjoyed,” Brian Durbin said after the service.
What’s still a mystery is whether Levin will encourage his members to smoke, promising civil action using Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act to do so.
“This is about the beautiful experience of life’s great adventure,” Levin said. “Cannabis helps us celebrate that. But if the world is going to turn ugly on us and stop us through religious persecution, we’ll go through the courts and we’ll make it work.”