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The IRS Just Gave the First Church of Cannabis Tax-Exempt Status

June 2, 2015

Remember when we recently wrote about the establishment of the "First Church of Cannabis" in Indiana? The church was founded by Bill Levin following the state's passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill that has received sharp criticism for allowing discrimination against anyone (such as gay people) who violates a business owner's religious beliefs. In addition to collecting a suggested monthly tithing of $4.20, the First Church of Cannabis sought "love, understanding and good health" and planned to set up counseling for heroin addicts and a space for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. 

Well, wouldn't you know it, the IRS just granted the church tax-exempt status, which means that the First Church of Cannabis is being treated exactly the same as a Catholic church, a Jewish synagogue, a Muslim mosque, or any other recognized religious place of worship. Technically, a church is not required to apply for tax exemption, but there are a myriad of benefits to being granted it, from various tax advantages to limited auditing risks. 

The church plans to hold its first service on July 1, 2015, the same day Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act is officially implemented. 'Cannataerians' are encouraged to attend and are even permitted to consume cannabis during service (although keep in mind that cannabis in any form is still illegal in Indiana, and any amount can send you to jail for 180 days with a fine of $1,000).

Levin, who plans to grow hemp (which is permitted under state law), described cannabis, or the "healing plant," as the church's sacrament, and that, "This is a church to show a proper way of life, a loving way to live life." 

Amen to that.