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Jailed Hilo marijuana advocate gets five years

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 04:13 p.m. HST, Apr 28, 2014

Hawaii island marijuana advocate Roger Christie, jailed since 2010, has been sentenced to five years in prison, the mandatory minimum for charges on marijuana trafficking and income tax evasion.

The Hawaii island man openly used his ministry to promote marijuana use and was sentenced in U.S. District Court for possessing nearly 300 pot plants as part of a distribution ring.

Christie, 63, of Hilo pleaded guilty last September in a deal with the federal prosecutor to one count of marijuana trafficking and two counts of failing to file income tax returns for 2008 and 2009. 

His wife, Sherryanne Christie, 62, was sentenced Monday to 27 months. Sherryanne Christie will not begin her prison sentence, however, until her appeal is resolved.

A federal grand jury indicted the Christies and 12 others on marijuana trafficking counts after a July 2010 raid of the ministry. Christie has been in federal detention since, while his wife has been free on bail. 

Roger Christie, the founder of the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry, also known as the THC Ministry, and his wife have tried to fight the charges on religious grounds. 

The couple pleaded guilty after U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi ruled against allowing a defense based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Prosecutors say religion was a front for drug trafficking. They say ministry members paid "donations" in exchange for marijuana.

Christie "was always pushing the limits to see how far he could go in his marijuana trafficking activities under the auspices of the ministry," prosecutors said in court documents filed last week. 

"Christie was clearly in this marijuana trafficking business for financial gain, inasmuch as the ministry's marijuana and associated paraphernalia sales ... were the sole source of income to sustain co-defendant Sherryanne L. Christie ... and himself."

The documents state the couple lived a modest but comfortable lifestyle. Roger Christie also pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to file a tax return. As part of his plea agreement, he will forfeit his apartment and more than $21,000 seized by federal agents. 

Under the terms of his conditional plea agreement, Christie will be allowed to appeal the court's pretrial ruling denying his bid to have marijuana conspiracy, distribution, manufacture and possession charges against him dismissed under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

If he wins his appeal Christie will be allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas and his convictions will be reversed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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entrkn wrote:
on April 28,2014 | 03:29PM
SteveToo wrote:
Dude shuda paid his taxes..Feds might have not bothered him.
on April 28,2014 | 03:42PM
HD36 wrote:
As far as I know, only American Indians have succesfully used the religious defense for drug. They use Peyote, a psychedellic drug with the same properties as LSD. The other exception is for military pilots. They take "hot pills" before a mission. The pills are the chemical equivalent of crystal meth. Keeps them alert during the long mission.
on April 28,2014 | 05:07PM
honokai wrote:
"As far as you know" doesn't keep you out of prison. It is about time that all this internet blather comes to an end. Real people suffer when they spend time in prison. Wake up!
on April 28,2014 | 09:23PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
Excellent, should be 10 years.
on April 28,2014 | 05:22PM
Anonymous wrote:
Meanwhile Carlton Nishimura had the charges dropped when he was caught with 16 grams of Meth in is house.
on April 28,2014 | 05:40PM
soundofreason wrote:
I am not pro marijuana BUT people are driving and killing others and ONLY getting 60 days and this guy gets 5 years?
on April 28,2014 | 07:04PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Shame this country is abandoning freedom in favor of Big Brother control. Orwell must be spinning in his grave.
on April 28,2014 | 09:22PM
st1d wrote:
jailed since 2010, this year will make it 4 years. a five year sentence with the feds. are the feds going to credit him with a day off from the sentence for every good day served? that would bring his sentence down to 2.5 years, which he already served and available for release?
on April 28,2014 | 05:44PM
krusha wrote:
Usually federal sentences are harder, with less time off for good behavior.
on April 28,2014 | 08:03PM
krusha wrote:
Just looked it up. Federal prisoners can only get up to 47 days off a year for good behavior, so only around a month and a half off per year if he behaves.
on April 28,2014 | 08:05PM
st1d wrote:
thanks, glad that both of us don't know how that good behavior pays off in prison. rather do the good behavior now and stay out of prison.
on April 28,2014 | 11:20PM
kainalu wrote:
We can all sleep well at night knowing that this dangerous criminal has been kept off our streets for 5-years. [sarcasm: off]
on April 28,2014 | 05:45PM
NITRO08 wrote:
Really, this is a waste of tax payers money.
on April 28,2014 | 05:59PM
HD36 wrote:
Yes, we've learned nothing from prohibition.
on April 28,2014 | 06:09PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Unfortunately we have. We now have a prison industrial complex second to none. Remember when Russia had this distinction? These laws need to be changed and voided. Listening politicians?
on April 28,2014 | 09:24PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Now if only we can be protected from the government.
on April 28,2014 | 09:23PM
HD36 wrote:
Just think how many government jobs we could create if they made coffee illegal. There are studies that it's bad for your heart, can cause prostate cancer and makes people snap.
on April 28,2014 | 06:00PM
jmarie wrote:
The difference in State of Hawaii law and Federal law. If he was convicted in state court he would have been put on Hope probation.
on April 28,2014 | 09:20PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Just another example of the corruption of the United States. To think this person was sentenced for doing what George Washington, the first president of the United States did is frankly criminal. I just don't understand those people who cheer such heavy handedness of the government beating up its own citizens. Such people who cheer such government control should really consider moving to Russia or Red China.
on April 28,2014 | 09:20PM
projectpeace wrote:
After more than three years of indefinite imprisonment-without-trial, denied bail eight times for a first-time, non-violent accusation, Hawaii State-licensed Cannabis Minister, Reverend Roger Christie, was finally coerced into confessing ("pleaded guilty"[sic]), under the weight of prolonged cruelty and injustice, wielded by federal prosecutors. Facing a trial at which he would not have been "allowed" to defend himself, Roger agreed to defer final judgement through a convoluted semi-conviction contingent on eventual appeal. Hard drug dealers are celebrating as increased public access to 'marijuana' cuts into the profits of the meth epidemic being fueled by Cannabis prohibition.The beastocracy is celebrating, as the bean-counting thugs plunder what they can of Roger's very few possessions. The Devil himself is laughing as "freedom of religion" in America lies bleeding at the foot of Justice. Does this entire persecution not reek of institutionalized schizophrenia? That the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was selectively denied a ministry that was in fact ruled by Judge Kobayashi herself to be "legitimate and sincere"? That a modest ministry serving the Big Island community openly for ten years, broadly appreciated by the people of the Hawaii for the sanity, peace and balance it brought to the "drug war" is treated more harshly than real criminals? Problems are profitable. Roger attempted to offer a solution to the "drug war problem" by orienting people to the spiritual legitimacy of the world's oldest global culture. For all of the good that he has done, for his courage and idealism, for his life-long effort to heal the imbalances of Cannabis prohibition Roger is being punished for threatening the economics of punishment and the systemic corruption of an unobjective court. The recent IPCC report has put into relief the cost of mankind's disrespect of Nature. Yet mankind continues to outlaw our greatest plant ally. The moral bankruptcy of prohibition is absolute, running rampant throughout the social evolution of our species. This injustice against planet, God and country serves to illustrate why our species probably won't survive this century. As the legal rot of "drug war" corruption remains dominant, systemic collapse becomes imminent.
on April 29,2014 | 07:44AM
Hokulani_Cheneviere wrote:
Funny that prosecutors mention the "modest but comfortable" lifestyle they lived. What does that mean? Roger had a bicycle and a 2000 Toyota Sienna minivan. He wasn't anywhere near the lap of luxury. Where was his 24 hour armed security and bulletproof limo? What a joke and travesty this is. Sure Roger and Share made errors in judgement but they were ALL about helping others. I wish that all the people that Share and Roger generously loaned money to constantly would speak up and tell the FEDS where all the drug profits went. The THC ministry had employess, operating expenses and huge overhead. The word "minister" means to help. Roger and Share are ALL about helping others and that's what they did. Their lifestyle was modest as fitting a typical ministry.
on April 29,2014 | 07:56AM
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