Religious defense OK for part of pot ministry case

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - A federal court judge says a 64-year-old Hilo cannabis minister can use religion as a defense in part of his federal marijuana distribution case.

Roger Christie has been jailed for nearly three years while he awaits trial on charges of conspiring to manufacture and distribute pot.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi has ruled that Christie and his wife may rely upon their religious beliefs to counter the element of "intent to distribute" in the charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara filed a motion for the judge to reconsider or clarify the decision.

Kobayashi on Aug. 27 is scheduled to rule on whether the Christies may present a defense based on federal law that acknowledges the use of hallucinogens as sacraments in certain Native American religions.

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