Legal Loopholes to enable “The Church of Cannabis “
Matt Ferner’s “Church Of Marijuana Gets Boost From Indiana’s Anti-Gay ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill” 30 March 2015 (http://huff.to/1DgzG9O) provides one of the first insights into a newly created Church in the American state of Indiana. Following the release of a new ‘religious freedom’ law, marijuana activist, Bill Levin, jumped at the opportunity to found the First Church of Cannabis. Founded on the principals of love, respect, equality and compassion, Levin has created twelve foundational tenets called the “New Deity Dozen” which include suggestions like ‘never start a fight… only finish them” available for his members to take a look at. Essentially, Levin aims to make cannabis the number one sacrament of The Church of Cannabis, using the legal loopholes of the new state legislation in order to use religion as the platform for getting away with smoking marijuana. Since announcing the creation of the church, Bill Levin has managed to raise two thousand dollars online, and has received thousand of messages of support. Interestingly enough, hundreds of people have expressed their willingness to volunteer to help him with his mission, and The Church of Cannabis’ Facebook page has managed to reach 5000 ‘likes’ alone in its first few days of public exposure.
Thus, Ferner manages to provide one of the first detailed and unbiased accounts of the new religious movement. Although it is still in the very early days of creation, the Church of Cannabis provides an interesting insight into some of the challenges faced by new religious movements in the modern technological age. One issue highlighted by Hammer and Rothstein (2012) is that new religious movements often face controversy when attempting to raise money (p.50). NRM’s have often been accused of coercing young people to work solely for the group, or to dedicate all of their finances to the group in order to sustain its wellbeing (Hammer and Rothstein, p. 50). Thus, The Church of Cannabis demonstrates an interesting, and perhaps modern facet of new religious movements as it has taken to the Internet in order to raise funds from people who may support it on a global level. No longer are the group members necessary to get a new movement on the ground. Instead, online links can become viral in both spreading the message of the movement, and asking people for financial support that comes as easy as a click of a button.
Technological advances also speak to the Church’s ability to draw such interest in a short amount of time. Despite the fact that most NMR’s have failed to emerge on a solely online basis (Hammer and Rothstein, p.40), the shear exposure an unusual movement like the Church of Cannabis has been able to attract five-thousand likes on Facebook. Therefore, the online presence of movements such as this has been able to benefit from the shear Internet aided proliferation in ways older religious movements have not. If the Church of Cannabis is able to tell us anything about the direction of new religious movements, it is that they are able to take many directions in this new modern, liberal age where technology is the most powerful weapon in their arsenal.
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