Into the Weeds: An Analysis of the First Church of Cannabis through Observation and Religious Theory

Madelyn Mays Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Chad Bauman Butler University
When one door closes, another one opens, or, perhaps, when one church closes its doors, a more radically eccentric one may just take its place. This is the exact case for the cannabis-based new religious movement called The First Church of Cannabis (FCOC), now occupying what used to be a Christian church on the southeast side of Indianapolis. Founded in March of 2015 by the self-delegated “Grand Poobah,” Bill Levin, the church emerged upon the implementation of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, commonly known as RFRA, which stipulates that the Indiana government cannot substantially burden an individual, organization, or corporation in their exercise of religion. However, the state still refuses to allow the use of marijuana within the church. Though the congregation is unable to light up the religious sacrament, they have certainly lit up the courts and media with lawsuits, international news coverage, and almost 50,000 followers on Facebook. The sheer existence of the First Church of Cannabis sparks curiosity and inquiry, and my personal visit to the church enhanced my interest for theoretical analysis even further. As suggested by the sociologist, W.E.B. Du Bois, we should study religious groups through hands-on, empirically-driven evidence, along with extensive research, in order to draw conclusions on the structure and function of a religion. Thus, I have contemplated my own experience at the First Church of Cannabis alongside religious theory in order to evaluate the authenticity of the church as a religion and cannabis as a religious sacrament.
Competitive Paper--All Disciplines (includes an Oral Presentation)
Competitive Paper (includes an Oral Presentation)

When & Where

09:45 AM
Pharmacy & Health Sciences 106A