Hilo's marijuana minister to stay behind bars

Published: Jun. 5, 2012 at 7:57 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 7, 2012 at 3:14 PM HST
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Roger Christie
Roger Christie

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

Familymembers cried as a federal judge told Reverend Roger Christie that he'd have to remain behind bars. Christie was hoping for release until his trial in January. The Hilo man made headlines back in 2010 when The Hawaii Cannibus Ministry – which he founded – was raided and he was arrested. THC Ministry considers marijuana a holy sacrament. The case has even led the National Geographic channel showing some interest in profiling Christie's story.

It's been dubbed by some as "Hilo's holy war", and Roger Christie is the reverend smack dab at the center of it.

In court, the Judge Kevin Chang denied a motion to release Christie from the federal detention center into the Mahoney Hale halfway house in Honolulu. In the past, the court deemed Christie a threat to the community.

But his attorney, Thomas Otake, responded, "We really believe we've demonstrated that you will not come across a more peaceful, respectful, honest man than Rev. Christie. To suggest somehow that he is a danger is, quite frankly, it's absurd."

In March 2010, federal agents and local police raided the Reverend's home and church in downtown Hilo - where he openly practiced his marijuana ministry. Court documents show they found 850 grams of processed pot, a dozen plants, seeds, suspected by-products, and $33,000.

Christie - who was shackled and wearing a white jumpsuit in court Tuesday - has been behind bars for 22 months. His attorney says worse drug offenders and defendants have spent less time in prison. Otake is pushing for his client's release before the January trial - citing Christie's gravely-ill mother and his new wife among the reasons the 62 year old would stay on the straight and narrow.

Otake added, "Because of the amount of time that has gone by, you're now talking about a significant amount of time that the ministry has been shut down and that he has had nothing to do with marijuana, and that should assure the court even further that he can comply with conditions of release."

Prosecutors declined comment. The defense plans to appeal Tuesday's decision.

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