Court Rules against marijuana possession
On July 6, a Judge of Marion Circuit Court in Indiana decided to rule against marijuana possession . Judge Sheryl Lynch ruled against First Church of Cannabis, stating that permitting exemptions of marijuana use on religious grounds will cast a negative shadow on society.
The Judge's other argument against marijuana liberalization pivoted on the point that police officers in Indiana state will have to make a tough call on whether a marijuana user is religious or not. In her summary judgment, Judge Lynch ruled that all evidence leads to the conclusion that if a religious exemption is given, drug enforcement efforts will be substantially hindered in the state.
The lawsuit was filed by First Church of Cannabis in 2015. This legal action was the direct result of Indiana passing its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This legislative piece was signed into law by Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana at that time. Pence argued that it is not possible for any government to impose the exercise of religion on any person. This measure was roundly criticized by gay rights and civil liberties organizations. They argued that business owners can now cite religious beliefs to commit denial of service to LGBTQ people.
The First Church of Cannabis became a recognized church in 2015. It filed a lawsuit claiming that church adherents should freely use the marijuana drug as guaranteed by the RFRA. One of the arguments provided by Judge Lynch against marijuana possession is that if the law allows possession of marijuana on religious grounds, then the church would be the target of society's malcontents like drug dealers, criminal gangs, and thieves.
The First Church of Cannabis claims to be a religious entity. The church has its own unique sacred texts, holidays, and rituals. It wanted to take advantage of the RFRA by mounting a legal challenge stating that laws in Indiana state possessing marijuana have restricted church members to practice their religion freely. The group regards marijuana as a "healing plant" which brings them closer to themselves and to people they meet. In its 2015 complaint, the church members described marijuana their “fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression.” Members embrace marijuana with their heart and spirit, both as a group and at an individual level.