By Steve Elliott
Do you use cannabis every day, religiously? So does Indiana's Bill Levin, and he's taking advantage of the state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) -- passed to legalize discrimination against gays in restaurants and other establishments -- to offer a bold test of the law's ban on government restraints on the exercise of religion.
Adherents of the recently established First Church of Cannabis worship and smoke marijuana, reports Steven Nelson at US News & World Report, which is illegal to grow, use or possess under state law.
It's unclear if local police and prosecutors will take action against the church, or accept claims the conduct is protected by the RFRA. We'll know more after the church's first worship service, scheduled for July 1, the same day the RFRA takes effect.
Levin said he's trying to find a church building willing to lease him space. He said the July 1 service will happen "come hell or high water" and that he will consider any suitable alternative, including religious campgrounds, private land, or a public park.
By Steve Elliott
With the rest of the United States moving toward relaxing the marijuana laws, Indiana seems to be bravely marching into the past. The Hoosier State's penalties for marijuana are getting tougher after Gov. Mike Pence requested -- and got -- stricter laws for low-level cannabis offenders.
The bill, HB 1006, still has at least one committee hearing, then it goes to the full Senate for a vote, Skywolf Neal Smith of Indiana NORML told Hemp News on Wednesday. It could be changed in committee or on the Senate floor; if there are significant changes, it will have to go back through the House for approval of the Senate changes, Smith said.
The increased penalties come as part of an overhaul of Indiana's criminal sentencing laws; possession of anything over about one-third of an ounce of marijuana is now a felony in Indiana. Pence said last week that he believed the bill would "send a message that the state is "tough on drug dealers."
Another part of the new law would require that felons -- which, of course, now include low-level pot possession defendants -- serve at least 75 percent of their sentences, up from the 50 percent or less that inmates might now serve if they earn good time and education credits while in prison.