religious freedom

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Indiana: First Church of Cannabis Approved After 'Religious Freedom' Law Passed

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Turning around a new law originally intended as a tool of intolerance against gays, the First Church of Cannabis Inc. has been approved by Indiana's secretary of state after the state's "religious freedom" legislation came into effect last week.

Church founder Bill Levin said he filed the paperwork in direct response to Gov. Mike Pence's signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law last Thursday, reports Sarah Pulliam Bailey of The Washington Post. Secretary of State Connie Lawson approved the church as a religious corporation with the stated intent "to start a church based on love and understanding with compassion for all."

Cannabis is listed as a sacrament in the church's doctrine, according to Levin, who set he was setting up a church hierarchy. Levin wrote out the new "Diety Dozen," a list of suggestions for better living comparable to the 10 Commandments.

The church will grow hemp, he said, though it will not buy or sell marijuana.

"If someone is smoking in our church, God bless them," Levin said. "This is a church to show a proper way of life, a loving way to live life. We are called 'Cannataerians.'"

Hawaii: Marijuana Advocate Roger Christie Enters Guilty Plea After Three Years Behind Bars

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

After spending the last three-and-a-half years in federal prison with no bail, Reverend Roger Christie, the founder of a Hawaii-based ministry that promoted marijuana use as a religious sacrament, pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court to possession of almost 300 cannabis plants, but reserved the right to appeal his case based on religious grounds.

Christie's case has received national attention, with cannabis advocates saying his pre-trial detention with no bail is unconstitutional. Many called him a political prisoner in the War On Drugs.

Christie, who founded The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry (THC Ministry), entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana and two counts of failing to file tax returns, for the years 2008 and 2009, reports John Burnett at the Hawaii Tribune Herald.

Sentencing is scheduled for January 22 at 2:45 p.m., before U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi. Christie faces up to 20 years' imprisonment on the marijuana charge, with a mandatory minimum of five years. The maximum term on each tax offense is one year.

Christie will forfeit is Wainaku apartment as part of the plea deal. He will also forfeit the $21,494 confiscated by federal agents during a raid in 2010.

Other marijuana-related charges against Christie were dropped as part of the plea deal.

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