A religious organization in Indiana known as the First Church of Cannabis was awarded nonprofit tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The founder of the church, Bill Levin, was notified by the IRS last week of his organization’s newly approved 501(c)(3) status, which will allow individual federal tax write-offs for people who make charitable donations to the church.
Members of the First Church of Cannabis believe that smoking marijuana is a religious observance. In Indiana, the use of marijuana is still illegal, whether for recreational or medical purposes. But using marijuana for religious purposes is a legal loophole.
Levin told the media that he decided to found the church this year partly because he wanted to test out Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is meant to protect all people’s religious practices from government intervention.
Worshippers at the First Church of Cannabis, known as “cannaterians,” have their own set of 12 commandments that refer to cannabis as the “Healing Plant.”
“It brings us closer to ourselves and others,” says the church’s mission statement. “It is our fountain of youth, our love, curing us from illness and depression. We embrace it with our whole heart and spirit, individually and as a group.”