Charlie Doss stood outside his house on South Rural Street and watched the cops rumble by on their motorcycles.
“You’d think they were gettin’ ready for World War Three,” he muttered. The police presence in his neighborhood was making Charlie cranky.
“What’s the big fuckin’ deal?” he announced.
Roughly two dozen patrol cars and a mobile IMPD unit sat at the ready in the parking lot of the Carpenters Local Union building two blocks from the First Church of Cannabis. Officers seemed to be everywhere; on foot, on bicycles — like so many other cities in America in recent years, Indy’s police department looked less like a group of peacekeeping constables and more like an occupying force.
IMPD was out in strength for the opening services of Bill Levin’s brainchild, the First Church of Cannabis, an “unintended consequence” of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration law. After gaining tax-exempt status from the IRS, Bill had planned his inaugural ceremony for the day the law went into effect — July 1, 2015.
Bill had initially stated that his congregants would partake of their sacrament — weed — at the end of the service.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry had responded to Bill’s intentions with a press conference. Curry expressed monumental frustration with the Indiana legislature, but made it clear IMPD would have all the plastic cuffs it needed: “Anyone caught in possession of marijuana will be subject to arrest … anyone caught giving marijuana to another individual will be subject to arrest for dealing.”
And further, as NUVO’s Amber Stearns reported on June 26:
Curry outlined all of the potential causes for arrest at the church service. Anyone attending the service, if marijuana is present, could be subject to arrest for probation violation or for visiting a common nuisance even if they choose not to partake in the church’s “sacrament.” Anyone who tries to drive away from the church while high is subject to arrest for operating under the influence. Any and all possible criminal code violations will be enforced. He also stressed that no minor child should be in the vicinity of the church.
Worried about a mass bust — including those who simply might’ve shown up to sing and not smoke — Levin prohibited weed at the church for the July 1 services.
City-County Councilor voices concern over city’s response to First Church of Cannabis
Posted By Amber Stearns @AmberLStearns on Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 4:00 PM
Indianapolis City- County Councilor Zach Adamson issued a statement calling into question the actions of the city and specifically the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in their response to the First Church of Cannabis.
The church held their first service Wednesday at noon following the enactment of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Adamson says the views expressed in his statement are his own and are not meant to reflect the sentiment of the entire council.
Adamson’s statement reads as follows:
Yesterday, as Hoosiers watched as several new state laws took effect, one issue of particular local interest has been a bit more high profile in the news. Specifically, The First Church of Cannabis, as they push the limits of the liberties the state says they wanted to protect.
Sadly, more than the reaction of the state, the OVER-reaction by local authorities has been of greater disappointment. Indianapolis residents have watched over the weeks as the media wars on both side of the issue have battled it out on both mainstream and social media.
“I’ve been very troubled by the reaction by our city and the by and large overreaction by our police chief, who actually compared this religious institution’s leader to Jim Jones. That’s a jaw-dropping comparison to a horrific crime and it is an insult to the lives that were lost in that tragedy. It is even more disappointing to see this overreaction using scarce public safety resources during a time of great need in our neighborhoods”, said City-County Councilor Zach Adamson.
Adamson continued, “Many residents have rightfully raised concerns about the city’s inappropriate use of taxpayer resources to fund harassment of this minority religious group. After reading several media reports of selective enforcement of municipal ordinances, the undue installation of police surveillance cameras – at a time when so many of our areas hardest hit by crime don’t have such attention – and the literal recruitment of opposition protesters by the mayors IMPD chief, many fear that Chief Hite’s actions have exposed the City of Indianapolis to expensive and preventable civil liabilities for violations of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, among others.
As our city saw with yesterday morning’s homicide on the near northwest side, we need more officers on the streets and more dollars for neighborhood policing strategies – not unwarranted harassment.”
The Council intends to take all possible actions to give IMPD the necessary tools they need to prioritize enforcement and we hope that we can pull back this encroachment onto the religious freedom of our residents. We call on the public safety agencies to allocate the officers and cameras where our residents have, for years, been begging for them and stop this highly inappropriate use of scarce taxpayer resources. We also call on Chief Hite to issue an immediate apology for the inappropriate invoking of the Jonestown Massacre.