Big Island marijuana advocate Roger Christie, his partner, two employees of the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry and 10 people who allegedly supplied marijuana for the ministry are facing federal marijuana manufacturing, possession and distribution charges.
A federal grand jury returned a secret indictment last month against Christie, Sherryanne L. St. Cyr, Susanne Lenore Friend, Timothy M. Mann, Richard Bruce Turpen, Wesley Mark Sudbury, Donald James Gibson, Roland Gregory Ignacio, Perry Emilio Policicchio, John DeBaptist Bouey III, Michael B. Shapiro, Aaron George Zeeman, Victoria C. Fiore and Jessica R. Walsh.
A federal judge unsealed the indictment yesterday. The U.S. attorney scheduled a news conference for this afternoon.
The indictment charges the defendants with possessing as few as two marijuana plants to as many as 1,108 plants. It also seeks the forfeiture of $21,494 that county and federal law enforcement officials seized in a raid of the ministry’s downtown Hilo offices, and from Christie’s Hilo apartment and Big Island property owned by Turpen, Ignacio and Policicchio.
Christie and St. Cyr manufactured, distributed and sold marijuana at the ministry assisted by ministry employees Fiore and Friend, according to the indictment. Christie also allegedly recruited Friend and Mann to start up a marijuana cultivation operation for the ministry.
By July 22, 2009, the operation had 284 marijuana plants under cultivation, the indictment said.
The indictment also charges Turpen with manufacturing and possessing with the intent to distribute 1,108 marijuana plants; Sudbury, 856 plants; Gibson, 152 plants; Ignacio, 80 plants; Policicchio, 72 plants; Bouey, 26 plants; and Shapiro, two plants.
Maximum penalties range from up to five years for distributing or possessing any amount of marijuana to up to life in prison for distributing or possessing more than 1,000 marijuana plants.
After Hawaii County police officers and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service raided his home and ministry March 10, Christie said he did not mind the experience if that was what it took to be declared legitimate.
He said he filed papers with the IRS declaring himself the minister of THC Ministry and was confident the government was going to clear him and return the money and records seized in the raids. (THC is also the abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana.)
Christie said he uses marijuana while providing sacrament. The THC website says the cultivation and enjoyment of cannabis is a fundamental human right provided by God and protected by the First Amendment.
State law allows a person who has a physician’s certification to possess and use marijuana to treat a debilitating condition.