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Hawaii Cannabis Ministry founder ordered held without bail

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The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry’s founder, who federal authorities claim is a major marijuana distributor, was ordered today to remain behind bars while he fights the allegations.

U.S. District Judge Alan Kay agreed with prosecutors that Roger Christie should not be released on bail or to a halfway house because he remains a danger to the community.

With Christie sitting motionless in a white jumpsuit, Kay noted he allegedly continued operating his marijuana ministry after federal authorities in March searched his home and office and confiscated cannabis.

A second search on July 8 allegedly found marijuana again at Christie’s house, Kay said.

The assertion by Christie’s defense lawyer, deputy federal public defender Matthew Winter, that Christie will avoid marijuana or other drugs if released was insufficient, Kay added in rejecting Christie’s appeal of an earlier ruling by Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang.

Neither Winter nor deputy U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara would comment after the hearing.

The 61-year-old Christie, a Hilo resident, and 13 others were arrested on July 8. A grand jury had indicted them last month, but the charges were sealed until after the arrests.

Federal prosecutors allege Christie led a major cannabis growing, processing and distribution ring, and that his associates grew or supplied it to Christie last year. Authorities contend they’ve put a major dent in the Big Island’s marijuana trade.

Christie and seven of the defendants remain behind bars, awaiting trial that is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 8. Six others have been released on bail.

The U.S. Pretrial Services Office initially recommended that Christie be released on $50,000 bond, restricted to his home and required to wear a locating device, Kawahara and Winter said during today’s hearing. The office later amended their report to suggest that Christie be sent to a halfway house on Oahu instead.

But prosecutors rejected both ideas and Chang ordered Christie held without bail. Christie appealed.

Winter told Kay the mission of Christie’s ministry has changed, he faces allegations of nonviolent crimes, and other defendants whom prosecutors contend were integral to the alleged crimes have been granted bail.

“He will not start up business as usual with the ministry,” Winter said.

Moreover, authorities did not arrest Christie after seizing marijuana during the March search, belying prosecutors’ assertions that he was a danger to the community, Winter contended.

But Kay appeared unmoved, saying, “You’d think the light would have gone on (with Christie) after the first search.”

Kawahawa said Christie essentially ran a marijuana business and suggested he will start again if released. “Mr. Christie … genuinely believes himself to be above the law,” Kawahawa said.

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