I’ve been thinking a lot about what I experienced at the inaugural meeting of the First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis. It’s all very amazing, full of irony and wonder.
Several people, myself included, have known the spirituality of Cannabis for many years. I have used it in ceremonies for at least 20 years that I can recollect. I follow Shawnee (Shawano) religion as far as I know and feel it to be. In my studies over the years, I have learned the Shawnee knew about and used Cannabis as a medicine and a sacrament, as what we call the Ohio Valley was home to wild, psychoactive Cannabis. Indians incorporated into their religion what was native to their particular areas. I incorporated it into my practice many years ago. Part of my traditions, and among most Native philosophies, a special pipe and bag for the pipe are also used. There’s another charge I could face for following my heart.
We know Cannabis is good for the body and mind. Why would we think it would not be good for the Spirit?
All major and at least most smaller religions, have used Cannabis as a sacrament. It was well known in the Middle East at the time of Jesus of Nazareth, and was undoubtedly used as part of the Hebrew Holy Anointing Oil. Its use as a sacrament goes back at least ten thousand years.
I’m one of those apparently rare ducks who actually reads bills when they’re introduced in a legislative body. It struck me as I was reading Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act that, by the wording of what became law, RFRA would protect those who choose Cannabis as a sacrament. Abdul Shabazz, Bill Levin and a host of others came up with the concept of the Church.
We’ve been working on relegalizing Marijuana in Indiana for nearly 50 years. It’s been difficult to get an official conversation going, and that is still a project under construction. That is the result of the ignorance of those who we have elected to office, and the complete unwillingness to honestly address the issues. The realization of the First Church of Cannabis forced the discussion into the arena. They will now have to address the issues, and talk with us because of the overwhelming public support of this action. Yes, there are detractors, who look at us through pre-judged eyes, but they are small in comparison to the positivity and love the Church has received from so many.
From the onset, with no money to speak of, the Church started taking shape. Money started pouring in, and within the first two weeks of fundraising, over $11,000 was raised. They needed a building, then a former Christian Church, which sat vacant for five years, was purchased at an excellent price. Volunteers came out of the woodwork, supplying free or very low cost labor and services. So many things and people just fell out of the sky, as if ordained to happen.
The Indiana Marijuana Movement has always suffered from a lack of media coverage, to the extent that many of us just created our own media, thanks to the internet. Our friends at NUVO in Indianapolis have always been there when we needed. But in the case of this Church, media coverage went viral, world wide. Russia, China, Australia, Israel, Canada and pretty much all American media jumped on the story. The day of Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor Terry Curry and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Rick Hite held their infamous press conference, I watched as four local TV news crews stacked up, waiting for one-on-ones with Bill. MSNBC was in the forefront of the coverage, even covering the Church during the 420 celebration in downtown Indianapolis.
Indianapolis’s reputation took a hit when Curry and Hite did their press conference. This press conference was to be conducted on the Monday (June 29th) and was to include Bill, who was to agree that he would be the only one to illegally use Cannabis in the ceremony. This was the agreement Bill had made with the prosecutor. Instead, Curry and Hite staged their press conference on Friday, June 26th, with no advance notice to Bill. At this press conference, Curry announced that he would take any measures against everyone in the Church, even if only one person fired up. Chief Hite went on to liken Bill to Jim Jones, the psychopath who led many to their deaths by drinking poisoned Kool Aid in Jonestown some years ago.
The First Church of Cannabis is based on love and respect. It is non-sectarian; anyone, of any faith or no faith at all, may join. I’ve known Bill Levin for 20 years. Yes, he’s flamboyant, some would even say he’s “Out there.” But I’ve always known Bill to be honest, caring and very spiritual. I would not have been involved with this Church had I thought any differently.
The neighborhood is mixed in its support. Many of our volunteers came from the neighborhood. But there are those who think they understand, but have their pre-judged opinions. All of us are entitled to our opinions, though it’s better for all if opinions are based on fact. Perhaps they will learn.
The morning of the opening of the Church saw yellow caution tape stretched around the properties adjacent to the Church. Temporary “No parking” signs were put up throughout the neighborhood by police. We were told we weren’t to cross the tapes, yet the 20 or so protesters were allowed behind the tapes.
Then there was the light pole mounted a domed monitoring camera, set up by an Indianapolis Power and Light company truck that blocked the street at a time when many people were coming to the Church.
Funny, that two of the Churches represented in the protest clashed. Two of the “Ministers” got into a fight on the protest line that police had to break up.
The service itself rivaled any of the mainstream ceremonies, with excellent music from the One Love Orchestra led by Derek “Droq” Muncie. Bill Levin explained the purpose and the goals of the Church. Several testimonials as to the effectiveness of medical Marijuana and brief sermonettes on the key values of the Church: Live, love, laugh, learn, create, grow and teach. More on the Church can be found at www.cannaterian.org.
Officials in the city of Indianapolis have attempted to intimidate a new religion, either with no understanding or from collusion with entities that do not want to see Marijuana relegalized. At a time of runaway violent crime, they waste money on intimidating the Church, moving 50+ officers to the scene complete with command post, add a security light and other things, for what? Trying to stop a peaceful, friendly and Spiritual gathering? Could you imagine the howl if they had done that to a Christian Church?
This is the true stripe of our local government.