Marijuana business owners suffering from tax issues may need to find religion: The First Church of Cannabis in Indiana has been granted tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.
The church, whose founder will grow hemp and reportedly allow cannabis consumption on its premises, was approved by the secretary of state under Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to Forbes.
Churches benefit from being considered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entities and in many cases don’t pay federal or state corporate taxes or state income, excise or sales taxes. They can also extend donors tax deductions on charitable donations.
Founder Bill Levin told U.S. News and World Report that each service will start with Amazing Grace played on a harmonica, followed by a “call to worship” when parishioners will begin smoking cannabis.
The religious freedom act doesn’t necessarily mean members won’t be arrested or ticketed, only that they can use the law as a defense if charges are brought up.
The state must then give a compelling reason for government interference with a religious practice. With the level of scrutiny Indiana’s religious freedom act has created, that may be difficult to do, the state’s American Civil Liberties Union legal director told the Indianapolis Star.