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Hilo marijuana minister has book in works

May 1, 2014 - 12:05am

The Hilo marijuana minister sentenced to five years in prison Monday has a book in the works, his wife said Tuesday.

Share Christie said Roger Christie has been writing while incarcerated for almost four years in the Federal Detention Center. She described the book as part history of cannabis and part memoir.

“It’s on the cutting edge, as always. He’s always on the cutting edge of doing things before they’re thought about,” she said. “He’s got a whole different angle, what he’s been writing about.”

Share Christie also was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court to 27 months in prison for her role in the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry, known as the THC Ministry.

She’s been free on bond and can remain so while she appeals her sentence, but her husband was jailed without bail — a federal magistrate called him “a danger to the community” — since a July 8, 2010, raid on their downtown Hilo ministry.

The Christies maintain that cannabis is a holy sacrament while prosecutors called their church a front for marijuana distribution.

Thomas Otake, Roger Christie’s attorney, said his client will likely be out of federal lockup in a matter of weeks instead of months, and that decision will be up to the Bureau of Prisons, not the court.

“If they feel his behavior in prison warrants it, they can knock off 15 percent,” Otake said. “So if you take 60 months, 85 percent of that is 51 months. … It’s also conceivable the Bureau of Prisons could release someone six months early to a halfway house here in Honolulu.

“He obviously is going to return to the Big Island as soon as he can.”

Christie has been incarcerated almost 44 months.

Roger Christie will also have to find a job or schooling while on four years of supervised release, the federal equivalent of probation. Share Christie is hoping her husband will work on the gubernatorial campaign of Libertarian Jeff Davis.

Otake said U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi said Christie could return to his ministerial duties under court supervision.

“The ministry did more than just him using marijuana,” Otake said. “There was a lot of advocacy. There was a lot of counseling. And he would do weddings and funerals. … He’s allowed to do all that. He just can’t use or distribute cannabis while he’s on court supervision.”

The prosecution of the Christies and others in the THC Ministry — known collectively as the “Green 14” — has made Roger Christie a cause celebre for marijuana decriminalization and legalization.

“In this day and age, when 19 states have legalized marijuana for medical use and two have legalized it for recreational use, it seems absurd that the federal government still has a five-year mandatory minimum for a charge like this, and that Roger would have to do five years and Share would have to do 27 months,” Otake said.

The Christies took a plea deal that allowed them to appeal their sentences after Kobayashi denied their request to use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 as part of their trial defense.

“What the court ruled is that we could not present that defense to the jury and we believe that was erroneous for several reasons. And that’s one of our issues on appeal,” Otake said.

In numerous dispatches from his jail cell, Roger Christie has written: “Please show us the blessings in this situation … and hurry!” As Share Christie noted, one of those blessings could be a book tour.

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