Prosecution of Hawaii's 'marijuana minister' invigorates fight for legalization

REUTERS/Alejandro Acosta

 (REUTERS/Alejandro Acosta)

Dope-smoking Big Island minister Roger Christie learned his legal fate Monday, and his case has invigorated lawmakers and advocates who believe, as Christie does, that marijuana should be made legal.

Christie was held for 3 years and 9 months in Hawaii’s Federal Detention Center without bail and or a trial on charges related to growing and distributing marijuana.

The 64-year-old preacher, who claims marijuana is a religious sacrament and openly sold cannabis in Hilo as part of his services at his THC Ministry, was sentenced to 60 months in prison and four years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi as a part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. He’ll be credited with time served, and could be released within two months, said Thomas Otake, Christie’s attorney.

Roger’s wife, Sherryanne “Share” Christie, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release, the maximum time allowed under federal law. She will likely begin her imprisonment in the next two months, just as her husband is released.

During the 2014 session, which ends this week, the Christies’ case energized drug legalization advocates and civil libertarians, who backed several measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use or decriminalize the drug. Those measures failed largely because of opposition from law enforcement.

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