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Marijuana advocate could spend another 6 months in prison

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Big Island cannabis advocate Roger Christie will spend about another six months behind bars after pleading guilty in his marijuana trafficking case, according to his lawyer.

But Christie will continue his quest to become the first legal marijuana ministry by appealing to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals pretrial rulings denying his bid to dismiss the charges, attorney Thomas Otake said today in an email statement.

Christie will plead guilty Friday as part of a conditional plea agreement, which means he will be able to appeal the pretrial rulings, according to the lawyer.

Christie will likely receive a five-year sentence, but because he has been in custody since his arrest in July 2010 and because of the way federal authorities calculate sentences, he will be released in about six months, Otake said.

Christie, 64, had been scheduled to go to trial Oct. 8 on multiple marijuana and tax charges involving his The Hawaii Cannabis (THC) Ministry in Hilo.

Otake said several pretrial rulings affected Christie’s right to a “full and fair trial.”  Instead of going to trial, Christie decided that it was best to enter into the agreement and appeal the pretrial rulings, the lawyer said.

“Reverend Christie is as motivated as ever to continue this fight, and is energized by the prospects of taking the fight to the next level,” Otake said.

Christie admits that he distributed cannabis for religious purposes, but will assert in his appeal that his conduct was legal, Otake said.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi’s pretrial rulings included the rejection of Christie’s contention that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act prohibits his prosecution.

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