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Founder of Indianapolis’ First Church of Cannabis Running for Governor of Indiana

Bill Levin is vying for a nomination from the Libertarian Party.

A.J. Herrington

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Founder of Indianapolis' First Church of Cannabis Running for Governor of Indiana
Steve Baker/ Flickr

Bill Levin, the founder of the Indianapolis First Church of Cannabis, announced on Monday that he is running for governor of Indiana. Levin will seek the nomination of the state’s Libertarian Party in his bid for the statehouse, according to a report in local media.

The legalization of cannabis will be a central theme of Levin’s campaign for governor. Currently, all cannabis products with the exception of CBD, which was legalized last year, are illegal under Indiana State law.

Levin said in a phone interview with High Times that he is running for governor because he believes that he can win.

“It’s real simple,” he said. “It’s love and human compassion versus greed and selfishness. It’s an easy win. Our state needs love, compassion, and good health right now.”

Politics As Usual Thwarts Legalization

According to Levin, the people of Indiana support cannabis legalization. Prohibition would have ended long ago if the question had been put to the voters, he believes. If elected, he plans to seek a path to cannabis legalization, either through the legislature or by giving the people the power to make the decision through a statewide election.

“If we were a ballot initiative state we would’ve had cannabis legal 10 years ago,” he said. “But unfortunately, the GOP controls the state and nobody is talking about ballot initiatives. When I’m elected governor, ballot initiative is one of the things I am going to put on point. We will have it so the people of this state can decide what their future is, rather than the corporations who buy our politicians.”

Levin said he will also make industrial pollution and Indiana’s environment an issue in the race for governor.

“We’re the bottom of the barrel when it comes to polluted states,” said Levin. “We’re number 48. We’re poisoning our people. Our rivers, our air quality are poisoning people here and our state is letting these companies run.”

Church Challenged Prohibition with Lawsuit

Levin founded the First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis in 2015 in response to the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill widely seen as an attack on LGBTQ rights that was signed into law by Vice President Mike Pence, who was governor of Indiana at the time.

After registering with the I.R.S. as a nonprofit organization, the First Church of Cannabis sued for the legalization of cannabis under the RFRA, claiming that the prohibition of marijuana violated the religious freedom of the church’s members to use cannabis sacramentally. The suit was unsuccessful, however, and a final appeal in the case was denied in January.

The Libertarian Party of Indiana will hold its statewide convention next spring. In 2016, Libertarian candidate Rex Bell ran for governor of Indiana, pulling in 1.34 percent of the votes cast in the contest.

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