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Church of Cannabis celebrates 4/20

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -The First Church of Cannabis is holding a special event to celebrate April 20th, but some people in the church’s neighborhood said the group should celebrate somewhere else.

Church members said April 20th, or “4/20,” is a holiday and a day to celebrate marijuana. They said the event at their south-side facility will include music, dancing and testimonials.

The group made headlines when they claimed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act gives them the right to legally use marijuana.

Leading up to the Wednesday night event, church founder Bill Levin led a rally in downtown Indianapolis.

Levin used a megaphone to recite what he called a prayer on the steps of the Indiana Statehouse.

“Repeat after me,” Levin shouted to dozens of supporters. “I love you.”

“Everyone who is stoned, smile,” Levin said. The crowd returned his request with cheers.

People at the rally wore clothes and carried signs with drawings of marijuana plants. The group eventually marched by Monument Circle and the City County Building.

“We’re going to have a great day,” Levin said. “We’re going to smile at everybody and hopefully they’ll smile back.”

Rick Swann isn’t smiling.

He was the pastor at Hansing Park Christian Church, in the building where The First Church of Cannabis now stands. Swann lives down the street from the building.

“I’ve gotten used to having drugs in various neighborhoods, which is a part of life, but to do that to a church is immoral,” Swann said.

Levin said the group doesn’t use marijuana at services; they just celebrate its existence. He said Wednesday’s event will not include marijuana.

“Not until we win our court case,” Levin said.

So is Levin even using marijuana today?

“I’ve studied the plant since 1968,” he said. “And I’ll leave it at that.”

Levin said he expects a hearing on the court case this summer.

He said the First Church of Cannabis still meets every Wednesday night and anywhere from 30-80 people show up.

A woman who lives next to the church said attendance has dropped since the group first started.

IMPD said there will not be an added police presence at the event unless they get a neighborhood complaint.