Christie’s religion defense taken under advisement by judge


A motion by Hilo cannabis minister Roger Christie and his wife, Share Christie, to use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 as a defense in their federal marijuana distribution case was heard Tuesday in federal court in Honolulu.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi took the motion under advisement and did not rule, an official said Tuesday afternoon. The judge also did not set a hearing to rule on the motion.

The motion is opposed by federal prosecutors.

Kobayashi earlier ruled the Christies will be able to present a religious defense at trial to the element of intent to distribute. She did not set a hearing to rule on whether the Christies can employ a defense based on RFRA, which protects the rights of certain Native American religions to use the hallucinogens peyote and ayahuasca as religious sacraments.

Christie’s The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry in downtown Hilo and Wainaku apartment were raided by the feds and local police on March 10, 2010. According to court documents, authorities confiscated approximately 845 grams of processed marijuana from the apartment, plus $21,494 cash found in a safe in the apartment and in a bank safe deposit box. The money and the apartment face possible federal forfeiture.

The Christies and 12 others were charged with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 284 marijuana plants, which carries a mandatory minimum prison term of five years and a maximum of 40 years if they’re convicted. The others were granted bail, but U.S. Magistrate Kevin Chang ordered Roger Christie held without bail, calling him “a danger to the community.”

He has been incarcerated without bail awaiting trial for more than three years.

Several co-defendants have made plea deals with the prosecution and one remains a fugitive.