Incorporating marijuana into religious practices is not a new idea. The most prevalent example would be the Rastafarians of Jamaica who have been using cannabis as a sacrament for decades. With marijuana being legalized in more places in the United States, churches based around marijuana have popped up, experiencing different levels of success. In a big win for these churches, the IRS has granted Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis tax-exempt, 501(c)3 status, a benefit that most religious organizations enjoy.
With this new status, the church can “take full advantage of the benefits of being considered a public charity by the federal government, including the deduction of financial contributions, limits on the IRS’s ability to audit the church, and being qualified to receive tax-deductible gifts and more,” according to the Huffington Post.
The ruling came a lot quicker than the marijuana church’s founder Bill Levin expected. “The approval came in under 30 days, which if you’re a lawyer you sort of go, ‘How the hell did that happen?'” said Levin. “We filled out the long form, sent it in to the IRS and expected that usual 180-day wait — but it was back on our desk in under 30 days.”
Levin and his “canatarians” (the name he has bestowed on his followers) were able to raise $11,000 through crowdfunding efforts and are still looking for a space to worship. While, there marijuana is their sacrament, there is no deity that the Church worships. “It has nothing to do with God; I don’t have the balls to describe a god to anybody,” said Levin.
What will this mean for churches devoted to marijuana and marijuana entities, in general? Only time will tell. This church needs for the state of Indiana to legalize or decriminalize marijuana use.