First Church of Cannabis

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First Church of Cannabis
First Church of Cannabis from the front of the building.jpg
First Church of Cannabis building
TypeCannabis-based new religious movement
ScriptureDeity Dozen
Grand PoobahBill Levin
RegionUnited States
FounderBill "Grand Poobah" Levin
OriginMarch 26, 2015
Congregations1 (3400 South Rural Street, Indianapolis)
Tax status501(c)(3) tax-exempt

The First Church of Cannabis is a cannabis-based registered church in the U.S. state of Indiana founded in March 2015 by Bill Levin.


The First Church of Cannabis was founded in March 2015 by Bill Levin, who attended Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, a Reform Judaism synagogue, as a child. He said it was a direct response to the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).[1][2] Monthly dues are $4.20.[3] Levin said that the church was granted IRS tax-exempt status less than 30 days after he applied.[4][3]

Levin titles himself Grand Poobah, or highest holy official, of the church.[4] He claimed that he had the idea to found the church while watching the popular television series The Flintstones. "Grand Poobah" is a term derived from the name of the haughty character Pooh-Bah in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado (1885), and used recurringly in The Flintstones as the name of a high-ranking elected position in a secret society, the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes.

The group planned to test RFRA on July 1, 2015, with a service in Indiana including the use of cannabis.[5][6] However, legal threats from the city forced the first service to not use marijuana at all. The service went without any arrests, even with a heavy police presence, although there were protesters from a nearby Christian church.[7] Parking was restricted, as the police argued that they were enforcing a city law on parking on a street less than 24 feet wide. Nearby residents also restricted parking on their property, although at least one person allowed parking for a small fee. The service featured a comedian, live music, and dancing. Food trucks were outside along with a merchandise table selling t-shirts and stickers.[8]

A security camera was installed outside of the church on the first day of service. City officials argued that the camera was installed to ensure public safety. Levin retorted by saying "I find it flattering. If you think we are important enough to install a camera so you can have a guy watch us 24 hours a day, good! Good! You're spending our Hoosier tax money proper."[9]

The church has a list of twelve commandments called the "Deity Dozen", which includes abstention from Internet trolling.[4][5]

The group's meetinghouse is located at a former Christian church building on South Rural Street in Indianapolis.[10] Services are held every Wednesday at 7.

Legal status[edit]

Security camera installed by the city of Indianapolis outside of the church. City officials argued that the camera was to ensure public safety, although others argued it was a waste of city resources.
Mural in the church painted by CS Stanley in the style of The Creation of Adam, where a hand is passing a joint to another.

The legal status of the Church of Cannabis' use of marijuana in a jurisdiction where it is illegal, but the Religious Freedom Restoration Act holds, has been debated by legal experts. The Supreme Court case set forth certain criteria in U.S. v. Meyers that may or may not match fourteen criteria listed by the Internal Revenue Service in granting tax-exempt status.[11][12] Several days after its first service, the Church sued both the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis, claiming that the present marijuana laws infringed on their religious beliefs.[13] This case was dismissed on summary judgement[14] and again on appeal.[15]

Deity Dozen[edit]

The Deity Dozen are a set of guidelines put forth by the Church.

  1. Treat everyone with love as an equal.
  2. The day starts with your smile every morning. When you get up, wear it first.
  3. Help others when you can. Not for money, but because it's needed.
  4. Treat your body as a temple. Do not poison it with poor quality foods and sodas.
  5. Do not take advantage of people. Do not intentionally hurt anything.
  6. Never start a fight... only finish them.
  7. Grow food, raise animals, get nature into your daily routine.
  8. Do not be a "troll" on the internet, respect others without name calling and being vulgarly aggressive.
  9. Spend at least 10 mins a day just contemplating life in a quiet space.
  10. Protect those who can not protect themselves.
  11. Laugh often, share humor. Have fun in life, be positive.
  12. Cannabis, "the Healing Plant" is our sacrament. It brings us closer to ourselves and others. It is our fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression. We embrace it with our whole heart and spirit, individually and as a group.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sarah Pulliam Bailey (March 30, 2015), "The First Church of Cannabis was approved after Indiana's religious freedom law was passed", The Washington Post
  2. ^ "Church Of Marijuana Gets Boost From Indiana's Anti-Gay 'Religious Freedom' Bill", Huffington Post, March 30, 2015
  3. ^ a b Joanna Prisco (June 15, 2015), For First Church of Cannabis, Ganja is Godly, Good Morning America – via ABC News
  4. ^ a b c Amanda Borschel-Dan (June 9, 2015), "Meet the Jewish grand poobah of the First Church of Cannabis", The Times of Israel
  5. ^ a b Vincent Funaro (June 8, 2015), "Indiana Marijuana Church Releases Its Own Ten Commandments; 'The New Deity Dozen'", The Christian Post
  6. ^ Sarah Ridley (June 14, 2015), "The First Church of Cannabis: New religious group preaches the healing powers of pot", Daily Mirror
  7. ^ "Cops warn of arrests at Church of Cannabis". Indianapolis Star. June 26, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Mark Alesia and GabFerreira (July 1, 2015). "Humor, love, police a strange mix at Cannabis Church". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved August 3, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Security camera goes up outside First Church of Cannabis". WISH-TV. Retrieved August 3, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ John Tuohy (June 9, 2015), "Indy's Cannabis Church finds a home", Indianapolis Star
  11. ^ Robert W. Wood (June 1, 2015), "IRS Approves First Church Of Cannabis. What's Next For Marijuana?", Forbes
  12. ^ Jay Michaelson (May 29, 2015), "Indiana's First Church of Pot", The Daily Beast
  13. ^ "First Church of Cannabis founder sues Indiana and Marion County over marijuana laws". Fox 59. Retrieved August 3, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ The First Church of Cannabis, Inc., Bill Levin, Herbert Neal Smith, et al v. State of Indiana, Governor Mike Pence, Attorney General Gregory F. Zoeller, et al (Marion Circuit Court, Indiana November 9, 2018).Text
  15. ^ The First Church of Cannabis, Inc., et al v. State of Indiana, et al (Indiana Court of Appeals April 9, 2019).Text
  16. ^ "The Deity Dozen - The First Church of Cannabis". Retrieved August 3, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ "Indiana Marijuana Church Releases Its Own Ten Commandments; 'The New Deity Dozen'". Christian Post. Retrieved August 3, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ Jasmine Jaksic (April 27, 2015). "Six Modern Religions for Freethinkers". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 18, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°43′5″N 86°6′54.5″W / 39.71806°N 86.115139°W / 39.71806; -86.115139