By "Radical" Russ Belville
On July 8, 2010, fourteen people were raided in Hawaii on charges stemming from a secret indictment by a federal grand jury of the THC Ministry, a church claiming the religious right to use cannabis as a sacrament. Of those fourteen, thirteen were released on bail, but the District Court denied bail to one, the leader of the church, Roger Christie.
The felony marijuana charges include:
(1) conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 100 or more marijuana plants;
(2) manufacturing marijuana (240 marijuana plants); and
(3) possession with the intent to distribute.
In denying bail for Mr. Christie, the government claims he is a “danger to the community”:
CHRISTIE AS A DANGER TO THE COMMUNITY, AS EVIDENCED BY HIS DECISION TO RECOMMENCE THE MINISTRY’S MARIJUANA TRAFFICKING OPERATIONS AFTER BEING SEARCHED ON MARCH 10, 2010:
Of particular importance to Magistrate Chang’s decision was Christie’s conscious decision to recommence the Ministry’s marijuana trafficking activities after March 10, 2010.
On March 10, 2010, Federal law enforcement officers searched the Ministry’s business premises (located at 94 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo, HI), Christie’s residence, and Christie/St. Cyr’s safety deposit box. At that time, about 12 live marijuana plants, marijuana seeds, and various liquids in vials suspected to contain marijuana by-products (as tinctures and oils) were found and recovered at the Ministry’s business premises.
Aside from the [$21,494 in] cash discussed above, approximately 845 grams of processed marijuana (453.6 grams = one pound) and various bottles/jars containing suspected marijuana tinctures and oils were also seized from Christie’s residence.
So, the danger to the community in this case is that if Roger Christie was out on bail, he’d reopen his church and continue growing and sharing cannabis with the people of Hawaii? In Christie’s petition to the court, he promised he would cease church activities if released on bail but the court apparently didn’t buy the promise since he didn’t cease church activities after the March 10 search.
Regardless, holding someone without bail is something we should reserve for flight risks or truly dangerous offenders. Nobody could reasonably argue that a gentle soul like Roger Christie is going to harm society. It is not as if the people who would go to THC Ministry for their sacrament are going without cannabis while he’s in jail; surely there are marijuana suppliers in Hawaii who will take up the slack.
What this is really about is the silencing of a successful activist. It’s the same principle used to shut up Marc Emery. It is Roger Christie’s political activism that is being persecuted here. No standard grower caught with a plants, seeds, tinctures, and less than a kilo of pot would be held without reasonable bail, especially considering the lack of firearms, prior criminal record, and any other drug activities.
This case illustrates why it is so important to legalize marijuana for all adults. The “danger to the community” angle only works if marijuana is criminal. The state feels a danger from a church because the marijuana they use as sacrament is criminal. Roger has preached a religious right to use cannabis protected by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but even with that right, illegal cannabis for all would still result in unreasonable restrictions for religious users, just as medical users are limited in plant numbers and possession amounts, subject to evictions and firings and drug tests, and still forced to prove their legitimacy lest they face arrest like everyone else who uses cannabis.
If you’d like to help Roger, send him mail, or donate to his case, please visit the THC Ministry website.