A pro-marijuana supporter smokes in front of the White House to advocate legalization of pot. Friday, an Indiana judge said churches cannot use marijuana for religious purposes. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
July 8 (UPI) -- The First Church of Cannabis in Indiana will not be allowed to use marijuana as a religious sacrament as long as the drug is illegal in the state, a judge ruled Friday.
The church argued it should be allowed to use marijuana for religious use under the Religious of Freedom Restoration Act, but Marion County Superior Court Jude Sheryl Lynch rejected that view, saying the state has a "compelling interest" to prohibit marijuana to fight drug trafficking.
"The undisputed evidence demonstrates that permitting a religious exemption to laws that prohibit the use and possession of marijuana would hinder drug enforcement efforts statewide and negatively impact public health and safety," Lynch wrote in her opinion, also noting police would have to differentiate between religious use and non-religious use of the drug.
"It is compelling and appropriate to treat the illicit drug market in a unitary way," she said.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill praised Lynch's ruling.
"I appreciate the court's fidelity to both the law and to common sense," Hill said, according to WTTV-TV. "Indiana's laws against the possession, sale and use of marijuana protect the health, safety and well-being of Hoosiers statewide. When the state has justifiable and compelling interests at stake, no one can evade the law simply by describing their illegal conduct as an exercise of religious faith."
In response, Bill Levin, who founded the church in 2015, said: "Cannabis is safer than Curtis Hill."
Levin said he plans to appeal.