Many Americans have always suspected the Internal Revenue Service is smoking some mind-altering drugs, and approving the First Church of Cannabis Inc. as a tax-exempt church may prove that beyond a doubt.
While conservative and tea party organizations had their tax-exemption applications delayed for years, the First Church of Cannabis received its IRS approval on May 26.
Bill Levin, the self-titled “Minister of Love and Grand Pooba of the Church,” describes his ministry’s mission “to celebrate love, understanding, equality, and compassion for all” according to the church’s Facebook page (which humorously calls its adherents “cannataerians”).
“Somebody at the IRS loves us because we got it back in less than 30 days,” Levin told Tax Analysts’ David van den Berg, the Washington Times reported Monday.
The church’s “Deity Dozen” includes such commandments as “Do not be a ‘troll’ on the Internet,” and “Never start a fight…only finish them.”
Levin, 59, a longtime marijuana legalization supporter, has run for U.S. Congress and local seats as a Libertarian party candidate, the Indianapolis Star reported last month.
The church is set to have its first service on July 1, 2015, and that’s no coincidence—the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act becomes effective on the same day.
“At the end of the service, we will inaugurate the church by saying the Deity Dozen,” Levin said. “We will bless our church, bless our people, and we will spark up.”
The problem with smoking marijuana in church is that it’s against Indiana law. Possession of any amount of the drug is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Levin told the newspaper that he expects to challenge Indiana’s marijuana laws using the RFRA.
“The possibility of getting arrested will always be there because there are people who do not read the laws the way I read them,” Levin said. “That’s when we have this discussion in the courts.”
The American Civil Liberties Union believes Levin may be protected by RFRA, while other legal experts say that “judges would view them as goofballs.”
However it works out, the IRS appears to view Levin and his cannabis church as a bona fide religion. Since the church can collect tax-exempt donations for its legal cause, it may be able to put up quite a legal fight.
And still buy plenty of Doritos.
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