The First Church of Cannabis

The First Church of Cannabis

Religious texts are important for creating group identity in new religious movements. New religious groups commonly reinterpret traditional text or sacralize texts written by their founder. For example, every piece of writing authored by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is considered to be scripture. Texts from an external source are usually supplementary to another primary traditional text. However, the First Church of Cannabis is using a regular book authored by a well-known cannabis supporter who is not associated with the movement. According to the article written by Matt Ferner, “Church of Marijuana Gets Boost From ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill,” March 30 2015 ( the founder Bill Levin just forwarded registration to become an officially recognized religious movement. Levin is attempting to utilize the controversy over the Indiana Religious Freedom bill, that would allow discrimination against the LGBT community, to promote his religious agenda. The Religious Freedom bill will allow anyone to use religion as a defense if sued. This would allow the First Church of Cannabis to attempt justifying smoking marijuana as a religious practice and circumventing the illegal status of marijuana.

The movement itself, claims to have no deities for worship and borrows concepts from many other religions. There are a series of prescriptive principles that is encouraged but not strictly enforced. The Church suggests ten minutes of quiet contemplation similar to meditation techniques found in Buddhism. Cannabis is the only sacrament within the religion that is said to bring one closer to themselves, bring love and rid illness.Although that may seem controversial, this is not the first religious group to use some form of intoxicant. In Hindu tradition, samnyasin (a term for renouncers) can use intoxicants to reach a higher state of enlightenment. The First Church of Cannabis also states they are a religion for the modern world. Levin argued that ancient scriptures, rituals, and languages like Hebrew or Latin are not relevant to the society we live in today.

The formation of this group is similar to that of the Jediism which is more like a counter movement to religion. Although the group has a text, there is no sacred characteristic within it thus resulting in a book used for mainly educational or entertainment purposes rather than strengthening group identity. The group is also more political rather than religious. It seems to be using religious status to gain the benefits of consuming marijuana through a legal means. With the amount of controversy and lack of religious qualities in the group, I doubt they will survive as a new religious movement. However, legalization of marijuana is still hotly debated topic and is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

-L.H #uwreligions


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