Indianapolis, Ind. – In an almost comical case of “Be careful what you wish for…,” a recently signed, and extremely controversial Indiana bill, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), may have just created a religious exemption for marijuana in the state.
The First Church of Cannabis in the Hoosier State has just filed paperwork with the Secretary of State to establish itself as a legitimate religious institution in Indiana. This was done at the same time Governor Mike Pence (R) held a signing ceremony for the divisive RFRA legislation, according to ABC 6.
The lightning rod legislation, which created a national uproar, calls for allowing individuals and businesses the ability to deny services based upon their particular religious values or morals.
Founder of the First Church of Cannabis, Bill Levin, announced on Saturday on the church’s Facebook page that their registration had been approved by the state:
Indiana lawmakers, in their haste to allow for the protection of personal religious freedom, have seemingly unintentionally created a religious exemption to state marijuana laws.
Indiana political commentator and attorney Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, pointed out that although smoking marijuana is still illegal under state law, “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 Scott-free.”
Since supporters of the bill contend all along that it “Only spells out a test as to whether a government mandate would unduly burden a person’s faith and the government has to articulate a compelling interest for that rule and how it would be carried out in the least restrictive manner,” Shabazz argues that the RFRA now constrains the states ability to do anything to stop citizens for using marijuana for religious purposes.
“So, with that said, what ‘compelling interest’ would the state of Indiana have to prohibit me from using marijuana as part of my religious practice?” he asked.
“I would argue marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and wine used in religious ceremonies. Marijuana isn’t anymore ‘addictive’ than alcohol and wine is used in some religious ceremonies. And marijuana isn’t any more of a ‘gateway’ drug than the wine used in a religious ceremony will make you go out any buy hard liquor. (At least not on Sunday.)”
Shabazz concluded, “I want a front row seat at the trial that we all know is going to happen when all this goes down.”
It’s not the job of government to regulate people’s social preferences. If a business enforces some type of policy that you don’t believe in or agree with, don’t frequent that establishment or put social pressure on them. Allow the market to dictate by leveraging social/monetary pressure if you believe an establishment to be acting in a manner you disagree with.
There’s never a need to use the coercive and aggressive power of the state, and by default its monopoly on force, against another individual for simply having a viewpoint that you don’t agree with or perhaps find offensive.
Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, freethinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has previously been published on BenSwann.com and WeAreChange.org. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.