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Hawaii News

Pot advocate moving to halfway house

Dan Nakaso

Big Island resident Roger Christie has been in a federal detention center since 2010

Hawaii island cannabis advocate Roger Christie, who pleaded guilty in September 2013 to federal charges of marijuana trafficking and failing to file tax returns, is being released to a halfway house.

Christie is considered an icon among some marijuana supporters and has been in custody in Honolulu’s Federal Detention Center since his arrest in July 2010 on the trafficking indictment.

State Sen. Will Espero had planned to visit him but was told that Christie was to be released Thursday, Espero said. Jeff Davis, a Christie friend and Libertarian candidate for Hawaii governor, also said Christie is being released Thursday.

Espero, in his role as chairman of the Public Safety and Military Affairs Committee, first visited Christie last year in federal prison.

“Without defending his guilt or innocence, I have felt that at the very least he should have been given bail,” Espero said. “The state of Hawaii allows people charged with sexual assault and murder to post bail, if possible. Here’s an individual who was charged with cannabis charges, yet they wouldn’t give him bail. It seems like there’s some injustice here.”

Christie, now 65, was scheduled to be released Nov. 14. So Espero took Christie’s release to a halfway house as a “sign that the feds are re-looking at the situation and maybe realizing at this stage that he is not a threat and should be given some liberties.”

Neither federal detention officials nor Christie’s attorney could be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Christie and his wife, Sherryanne Christie, ran the now-defunct Hilo marijuana ministry called The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry.

He pleaded guilty to one count of marijuana trafficking and two counts of failing to file tax returns for income earned in 2008 and 2009. The income tax loss was reported in court as $7,100 in 2008 and $6,844 in 2009.

The trafficking charge carries a prison term of five to 40 years and each of the two tax charges carries maximum one-year jail terms.

Sherryanne Christie, who admitted she was an “intermediate” leader in the ministry, pleaded guilty to a lesser marijuana trafficking charge.

Roger Christie maintained that marijuana is a sacrament and an integral part of his ministry. Federal prosecutors argued that his ministry was a front to mask his marijuana enterprise.

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