The Church of Cannabis is expanding rapidly, but can marijuana hold up against the RFRA as a religious sacrament?
Following the establishment of the First Church of Cannabis, even more cannabis-based religions have been growing. The religion has gained a following, with even more churches opening across America. The growth of these religions have begun to bring up important questions, including if marijuana can be protected under RFRA laws as a spiritual sacrament. Steven Hager put together Pot Illuminati, which can be found on Facebook, as well as the first Congress of Marijuana Ministries. The Congress is intended to allow marijuana leaders to discuss their religions in an open and honest way. In addition, the Federation of Cannabis Churches was created by Hager to encourage others to start their own religious bodies.
Cannabis: Religious Sacrament?
The big question on pretty much everyone’s mind lately has been if marijuana can hold up against the RFRA as a religious sacrament, to be protected against the law for those who hold the sincere belief that marijuana is a tree of life, or something similar. There are many marijuana churches that have received the benefits of being a religious institution, including licenses to marry and being legally recognized as a religion. It has recently become an argument for legalizing the plant alongside the usual arguments for its medicinal purposes and tax revenue.
Congress of Cannabis Ministries
The Congress was established by Steven Hager just a couple of Sundays ago, on July 26. The Congress’ first event was held alongside the Munchie Cup, which is similar to the Cannabis Cup hosted by High Times. During the Munchie Cup, discussions are held around the culture and business of cannabis. Hager incorporated the religions views of cannabis, such as frankincense and music. However, he isn’t looking forward to doing the paperwork and other duties that are required when starting a legally recognized church.
Kathleen Chippi, however, was thrilled to do her paperwork. She founded the Closer to the Heart Ministry in 2010, registering it and everything, after Roger Christie of THC Ministries came through Colorado to start ministries there. Though she was intrigued, she opted to start her own because she felt it was lacking “what [she] felt [she] wanted for [her] church,” which was to be on paper the way Roman Catholic churches are on paper. Bill Levin’s church treats marijuana as a sacrament, however his church in Indiana (where use and possession of marijuana is illegal) has yet to use it because they have received threats from police and prosecutors. However, Levin feels that the practice is protected by RFRA as it states that state or local action cannot be taken if it “substantially burden[s] a person’s right to the exercise of religion.”
— Fruzsina Eördögh (@FruzsE) August 4, 2015