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Pot as Religion

The story of Roger Christie and the THC Ministry here in Hawaii is a long an involved one, but it breaks down to a few essential ingredients. The first is a religion where marijuana is considered a sacramental element. The second has to do with whether something that would ordinarily be considered a crime (in this case, dispensing marijuana) can be shielded by religion.

His arrest, along with 13 others, goes back to a raid on Christie’s church in 2010. Christie has remained in jail since. He is charged with trafficking in marijuana, largely because he was willing to pass marijuana along to anyone who asked in exchange for a donation. He has been unable to obtain bail and his case has not gone to court, with a further round of motions expecting to delay a court date until the end of March.

Christie writes a blog from the detention center where he is being held, and he documents his ongoing legal battle. Currently, there are two main issues on the table. His lawyer says that freedom of religion protects the THC Ministry from wiretap and recordings made by law enforcement should be thrown out. They are also pushing for a ruling that would declare marijuana as misclassified by the DEA and charges stemming from this classification would then be null.

Unfortunately for Christie, the DC Court of Appeals recently ruled that the DEA does have the right (and responsibility) to classify marijuana. The other point will have to be ruled on by the judge.

When the church was raided, officers confiscated 2,296 plants, 33 pounds of ready-to-smoke pot, and more than $21,000 in cash. They allege he was running a marijuana business and the church was a front for this.

Christie has become a minor celebrity in the current marijuana legalization movement, and even the Honolulu Weekly referred to him as a political prisoner. As the nation moves closer to lowering penalties for marijuana (even our state has pending legislation to decriminalize weed), this is unlikely to help in Christie’s case because the quantities involved put him in the trafficker class.

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