Maui News

Hawaiʻi Island Marijuana Minister Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

April 29, 2014, 8:33 AM HST
* Updated April 29, 10:53 AM
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Roger Christie at the THC Ministry in Hilo, Hawai'i.  Image courtesy THC Ministry.

Roger Christie at the THC Ministry in Hilo, Hawai’i. Image courtesy THC Ministry.

By Wendy Osher

A Hawaiʻi Island man who founded the Hawaiʻi Cannabis “THC” Ministry was sentenced to five years in prison for marijuana trafficking and tax evasion.

Roger Christie, 64, pleaded guilty last September to conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, involving 100 or more marijuana plants, according to the US Department of Justice.

According to the Hawaiʻi Cannabis Ministry website, leaders of the group call cannabis a sacrament and advocate for its enjoyment and cultivation. Leaders claim use of cannabis is a “fundamental human right provided by God and protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.”

The site further claims that the Ministry, “helps to build your mana by providing a real education in practical Cannabis spirituality.”

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In addition to the drug charges, Christie also pleaded guilty to two separate tax counts for failure to file federal income tax returns for calendar years 2008 and 2009, according to Florence Nakakuni, US attorney for the District of Hawaiʻi.

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His wife, Sherryanne Christie was sentenced to 27 months in jail for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, involving 50 or more marijuana plants, the Justice Department said.

Under the terms of their plea agreements, “both Christies reserved their right to seek appellate review of the District Court’s denial of four pretrial motions, including the court’s finding that enforcement of marijuana trafficking laws against them did not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

In addition to his prison term, Roger Christie was ordered to a term of four years of supervised release. In press release announcing the ruling, Nakakuni explained terms of the release saying, “while Roger Christie may participate in Ministry functions that do not involve the use or possession of controlled substances, the court also ordered that he was prohibited from associating with other persons who were using or possessing such drugs.”

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