The Indianapolis Star reported that Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis has been classified by the IRS as a nonprofit, which grants the organization tax-exemption status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code.
The First Church of Cannabis was formed earlier this year by Bill Levin in response to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The church had already been approved by Indiana’s secretary of state as a nonprofit domestic corporation in March.
The church’s new status means that contributions will be tax-deductible on federal tax returns. The First Church of Cannabis is also now eligible for a property tax exemption.
Levin told The Washington Post in March that plans for the church included plans for growing hemp but not buying or selling cannabis. “We’re going to set up counseling for heroin since we have a huge epidemic in this country. We’ll probably have Alcoholics Anonymous, too. I’m not going to allow alcohol on the premise,” said Levin.
“I find that most religions are misled into gross perversions of what they are meant to be. This path has led me to lead a religion that people in today’s world can relate to it. We don’t have any guilt doctrine built in. We don’t have any sin built in,” he said.
The First Church of Cannabis has planned its first service for July 1, which is the day that Indiana’s RFRA goes into effect. The service is planned to include smoking cannabis, which Levin calls a religious practice. According to the The Indianapolis Star, legal experts express doubt that the RFRA will protect members smoking cannabis at the church from prosecution.