• In the 21st century, religion has changed so much that marijuana can be perfect incense and the centre piece of a belief. In Lansing, the capital of the United States of America’s Michigan State, The First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason opened its doors to the public on Sunday the 26th of June from 1-3 p.m. The inaugural service was held inside the Lansing Herbal Farmers Market, 918 Southland Avenue and almost fifty people attended. Jeremy Hall, the founder of the church is an ordained minister. The Lansing church is only a part of the growing list of cannabis churches in America. Metro reports, “Earlier this year, when the U.S. Post Office seized a reeking package of high-grade weed, they were sued-for intercepting a Church’s ‘sacramental’ cannabis.”

    The Lansing Church which follows the trail set by such churches as The First Church of Cannabis in Indiana which was founded in March 2015. Its main aim was “to turn pot into religious freedom”. The church members are called the Cannataerians and their chief aim is to legalise marijuana as a religious right. Bill Levin, the “Grand Poobah”, leader of the Indiana church commenting on his church said, “We will celebrate life’s great adventures. This is not just smoking pot and getting high. It’s about the birth of a new religion. I’m a smile harvester.” Levin’s group seems to just be a group of people advocating for legalising cannabis in Indiana. At least his church has a “Deity Dozen” note on Facebook which has been called a “stoners’ version of the Ten Commandments”. Hall’s church on the other hand has no specific ideology or texts, let alone figureheads of the religion. Is this even a religious group? That is debatable.

    Speaking to attendees, Hall said, “The question I get is, ‘How can this be a church if we don’t subscribe to a religious theology?’ Well, the reality is it sounded better than a cannabis cult.”

    This is a church where attendees bring their own beliefs and the only common denominator is the use of cannabis…not common values.

    USA Today reports that the Lansing Church has already handed out fans and water to people during the hot summer and also handed out 100 hygiene kits to attendees for distribution to those in need. Hall says, “We’re using our church to elevate the community and to show we aren’t a drain on society or a bunch of unmotivated criminals.” So who are these people? Do-gooders who smoke pot? This could be a step towards legalising marijuana and indeed these churches are grabbing the attention of the world to their plea. 

    People attend the opening service of the First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason Sunday, June 26, 2016. (Photo: Robert Killips | Lansing State Journal)

    The Lansing Church was opened almost exactly a year after Pope Francis spoke at a Rome drug enforcement conference. He said limited steps to legalize recreational drugs were not only questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they also failed to produce the desired effects. The Pope said, “Let me state this in the clearest terms possible. The problem of drug use is not solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem.” The legalisation of marijuana has become one of the most debated moot points of modern society. Medical use of marijuana is understandable, it is the recreational aspect that has caused much dissension.

    In the United States, there is a growing drive for the legalisation of marijuana for recreational purposes. Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington have already legalised and regulated marijuana adult consumption and are some of the 24 states allowing medical marijuana. California voters in 2010 rejected the legalisation of marijuana but this November, the proposal will again be taken to a vote. According to the Oregon, if the vote is successful, one in six Americans will live in a state with legal marijuana sales. 

    Uruguay, in December 2013 became the first country to legalise marijuana on nation-wide level. Earlier this year, Canada announced it would be legalising cannabis and all hints suggest the United Kingdom may soon join the bandwagon. The idea is if marijuana use is regulated, dangerous criminals are taken out of the matrix. This of course is an optimist’s view of the whole situation. Legalisation and regulation will not magically annihilate the black market without a well-oiled structural system. A strictly hardliner approach has been known to also drive the drugs underground, playing into the hands of drug-dealing cartels. The debate is one that could go on forever. For now, however, more churches will open in the United States and more conversations about marijuana will be initiated. 


    Header Image Credit: New York Times