July 9 (UPI) — The First Church of Cannabis in Indiana will not be allowed to use marijuana as a religious sacrament as long as the drug is illegal in that state, a judge ruled on Friday.
The church argued that it should be allowed to use marijuana for religious use under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but Marion County Superior Court Judge Sheryl Lynch rejected that view because the state has a “compelling interest” to prohibit marijuana to fight drug trafficking.
“The undisputed evidence demonstrates that permitting a religious exemption to laws that prohibit the use and possession of marijuana would hinder drug enforcement efforts statewide and negatively impact public health and safety,” Lynch wrote in her opinion, adding that police officers would have to differentiate between religious use and non-religious use of the drug.
“It is compelling and appropriate to treat the illicit drug market in a unitary way,” she said.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill praised Lynch’s ruling.
“I appreciate the court’s fidelity to both the law and to common sense,” Attorney General Hill said, according to WTTV. “Indiana’s laws against the possession, sale and use of marijuana protect the health, safety and well-being of Hoosiers statewide. When the state has justifiable and compelling interests at stake, no one can evade the law simply by describing their illegal conduct as an exercise of religious faith.”
In response, Bill Levin, who founded the church in 2015, said: “Cannabis is safer than Curtis Hill.”
Levin also said he plans to appeal.