June 15, 1949 |
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
|Residence||Hawaii Island, Hawaii|
|Education||Associate in Science in Career Pilot |
|Alma mater||Miami-Dade Junior College|
|Home town||New Jersey countryside|
|Criminal charge||Marijuana possession and trafficking|
Roger Christie (born June 15, 1949) is an ordained minister in the Religion of Jesus Church, which regards marijuana as a "sacramental herb."  In 2000, he founded the THC Ministry, which offered cannabis as a part of its services. On July 8, 2010, Christie and 13 other individuals associated with the THC Ministry were indicted by a Federal grand jury in Honolulu on Marijuana possession and trafficking charges. He is now being held in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center awaiting trial.
In 1970 he enlisted in the US Army and was trained as a G2 Intelligence Analyst at Fort Holabird, Maryland, a US Army "spy school", but became disenchanted by the military and political missions in Vietnam and elsewhere. Christie refused his orders to serve in the Vietnam War and received an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector. His success in this process inspired him to pursue legal options to overturn United States drug policy, a fight which has led him to numerous court battles and arrests.
In 1986, he became a resident of Big Island, Hawaii. He was a co-founder of the Hawai'i Hemp Council in 1990 and, with Aaron Anderson and Dwight Kondo, founded the Hawaiian Hemp Company. By 1991, he had one of the first retail hemp stores in the world. In 1996, Christie ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Hawaii County Council. In June, 2000, he was ordained as a minister by the Religion of Jesus Church through the Universal Life Church. He received his license to perform marriages in the State of Hawaii as a "Cannabis Sacrament" Minister and founded the THC Ministry. In 2004 he failed in an election bid for Mayor of Hawaii County.
Christie ran the THC Ministry (aka Hawaii Cannabis Ministry) in Hilo, Hawaii for ten years. According to the Ministry's website, “We use Cannabis religiously and you can, too.” For a $50 donation, a person could become a “Practitioner” and receive a plaque, an “affidavit of religious use”, two ID cards, and seven “Sacramental Plant Tags”. For $250, the donor would get a “Sanctuary Kit” which also included the “THC Minsitry [sic] Cannabis and Religion Guide”.
According to Christie, "We have cannabis here that people can donate for if they are 'blue card' (medical marijuana permit) holders or members of the ministry."
Roger Christie's Cannabis Ministry handed out free "Aloha Bags" of marijuana to anyone who showed up at the end of their business day.
On March 20, 2010, Federal agents raided the downtown Hilo sanctuary of Christie's Hawaii Cannabis Ministry, assisted by local police. Christie said authorities spent about seven hours searching his home and ministry, starting around 6 a.m. He said the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspector and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service were involved in the search.
A three-count sealed indictment in June, 2010 charged Christie with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 100 marijuana plants, manufacturing marijuana and possession with the intent to distribute 240 marijuana plants.
Christie was arrested on Thursday July 8, 2010, along with 13 others from the Big Island, and charged with possession and sale of cannabis. According to court documents, authorities confiscated approximately 30 ounces (845 grams) of processed marijuana in the Wainaku apartment and more than $34,000 cash from the apartment and a bank safe deposit box. The money and the apartment face possible federal forfeiture. Christie's arrest culminated a two-year investigation by federal and county law enforcement during which they seized 2,296 marijuana plants, nine weapons, 33 pounds of processed marijuana, and four properties from Christie and his co-defendants. According to Christie, investigators monitored 17,000 phone calls during the two-year period before the March, 2010 raid.
Christie allegedly sold an average of one half pound of cannabis to 60 to 70 customers each day, about 180 pounds (82 kg) per year. Federal investigators said Christie suggested a "donation" of $400 in exchange for an ounce of marijuana from customers. At this rate, donations to Christie's ministry in exchange for marijuana would amount to over $1 million per year.
After his arrest, Christie was taken to Oahu and incarcerated at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center. All other detainees were speedily released on bail or signature bond before trial. But Hawaii Federal District Court Judge Alan Kay ruled that Christie must remain in federal custody until his trial.
The prosecution argued that Christie should not be released on bail because he is a danger to the community. The court accepted this argument because marijuana was found again in a new search of Christie's home in June 2010, leading the court to conclude that Christie would continue to violate the law while out on bail. As quoted in the Star-Advertiser on Feb. 24, Judge Alan Kay remarked: "You would think the light would come on when the first search of his residence was made." Judge Kay's ruling was upheld by 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Reverend Christie maintains that if anyone had told him to stop what he was doing he would have stopped immediately. As it was, the federal investigators who visited the THC Ministry in March 2010 seemed to give their approval of what they referred to as "a legitimate ministry."
On Jan. 17, 2013, a federal grand jury in Honolulu returned an updated indictment against Christie and seven co-defendants. The indictment includes additional charges for three sales of marijuana to an undercover officer during 2008 and two charges of his failure to file income tax returns for 2008 and 2009,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara, the lead prosecutor, said.
Christie’s trial on federal drug trafficking charges was scheduled for July 23, 2013. Presently it has been postponed until October 3rd, 2013. By then, Christie will have spent over three years in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center. Christie faces up to 40 years in a federal penitentiary if convicted. Six co-defendants have made plea deals with the prosecution to cooperate with authorities. Christie is being represented by a public defender.
On March 21, 2013, The Hawaii Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs heard and passed Senate Concurrent Resolutions SCR75 and SR42, “urging the federal government to release Roger Christie pending trial.”
On April 3, 2013, Roger Christie was visited by Senator Russell Ruderman and Senator Will Espero at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in Honolulu. The purpose of this visit was to discuss Mr. Christie's incarceration, health, and rights as a United States citizen under the United States Constitution. The terms of this visit specified that no media be present. Mr. Christie has been denied contact with reporters from National Geographic, Newsweek, Honolulu Civil Beat, and others. Senator Ruderman stated, “I have known Roger for over 25 years. He is one of the most peaceful persons I know. To anyone who knows him, the claim that he is a danger to the community is absurd.” Senator Espero commented. “This visit was very enlightening. I still feel that Mr. Christie should be released pending a trial.” Christie remained intent on proving his innocence in a court of law.
On April 10, 2013, the Hawaii Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee heard concurrent resolutions SCR75 and SR42, “urging the federal government to release Roger Christie pending trial.” Hundreds of testimonies supporting the measures were received from the public.   
The Committee also heard testimony from Tracy Ryan, the Vice Chair of the Hawaii Libertarian Party, who said that Roger Christie was the victim of a "frightening", "railroading system" in which federal prosecutors have provided "a lot of good lawyerly reasons... to... say that the constitution of the United States doesn't apply to the federal system." 
During the proceedings, Senator Sam Slom and Senator Russell Ruderman both spoke in support of passing the resolutions onto the senate for a full hearing. Sen. Clayton Hee, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, acknowledged that there were "many testimonies in support” of the resolutions. Nevertheless, Senator Hee deferred the resolutions.
Another 2013 Hawaii Senate Resolution, SR12, calls on President Obama to "initiate a formal investigation into the conduct of federal law enforcement personal in regard to the violation of the constitutional rights of Hawaii County Resident, the Reverend Roger Christie." SR12 has not been scheduled for a hearing.
On September 27th, 2013, in a plea deal with prosecutors, Christie pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute 100 or more marijuana plants. He faces a minimum prison sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years, according to a statement from US Attorney Florence Nakakuni.
His wife, Sherryanne Christie, pled guilty to a similar charge but involving 50 plants or more. She faces a sentence of up to 20 years, with no mandatory minimum, Nakakuni said.
As part of a plea agreement, the Christies agreed to forfeit more than $21,000 in proceeds from the operation of the THC Cannabis Ministry, which operated in Hilo from 2000until July 8, 2010, when they and 12 others were arrested.
Roger Christie also agreed to forfeit a condominium apartment on Kauila Street in Hilo which was used to facilitate their marijuana trafficking activities.
According to federal authorities:
(1) In 2008, an undercover law enforcement officer was introduced to Roger Christie and on three separate occasions at the Ministry, Christie sold quantities of marijuana to him (the largest being one-half pound).
(2) In 2009, the Ministry was open three days a week from 2 – 5 p.m. During this three-hour period, there were up to 70 customers served, and the Christies sold over one-half pound of marijuana “sacrament,” making about $1,000 or more in profit.
(3) They estimated that about 90% of the customers were Ministry members, while the remaining 10% had state medical marijuana cards. In order to join the Ministry, prospective members were supposed to sit through an orientation session with Roger Christie. However, Roger Christie said he scheduled membership sessions with passengers on visiting cruise ships who were in Hilo for one day, and one could also join by ordering a Ministry “sanctuary kit” by mail for a $250 “donation.”
(4) The Christies instituted an “express” procedure in early 2009, which made it unnecessary for prospective members to meet with the Christies or to receive any spiritual blessing/advice from them in order to receive their marijuana “sacrament.” Rather, as long as the customer could pay the full amount of the “donation” price and had someone’s membership card or state medical marijuana card, that person could acquire “sacrament.”
(5) There were “suggested donation” prices such as $50 for one-eighth ounce, $100 for one-quarter ounce, and $400 for one ounce. When one customer complained during an intercepted call that the quoted “donation price” of $400 an ounce was rather high, Roger Christie justified this amount, stating “It’s retail,” and “Normal retail. You know, we buy it, you know, at forty-five hundred, five grand a pound, so….” 
- "The 420 Times, July 9, 2010.".
- "Welcome to the Religion of Jesus Church".
- "420 Magazine, September 6, 2010".
- "Cannabis Culture Magazine, March 14, 2010.".
- "THC Ministry: The Hawai`i Cannabis Ministry.".
- "Honolulu Advertiser, March 12, 2010".
- "West Hawaii Today, March 11, 2010.".
- "Honolulu Advertiser, March 12, 2010.".
- "Hawaii Tribune-Herald, December 12, 2010.".
- "Hawaii Tribune-Herald, July 17, 2010.".
- "Officials Unveil Hawaii Marijuana Case, July 12, 2010.".
- "Civil Beat, 12/29/2011.".
- "Star-Advertiser, July 16, 2010.".
- "SCR75, URGING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO RELEASE ROGER CHRISTIE ON BAIL PENDING TRIAL.".
- "SR42, URGING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO RELEASE ROGER CHRISTIE ON BAIL PENDING TRIAL.".
- "Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs passes SCR75, March 21, 2013.".
- "Testimony to Committee re: SR42, April 10, 2013.".
- "Late Testimony to Committee re: SR42, April 10, 2013.".
- "Testimony to Committee re: SCR75, April 10, 2013.".
- "Audio Transcript: Hawaii Senate Committee Hearing Roger Christie Resolutions, April 10, 2013.".
- "AP: Senator rejects resolutions to free pot minister Roger Christie, April 10, 2013.".
- "SR12, REQUESTING PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, TO INITIATE A FORMAL INVESTIGATION INTO THE CONDUCT OF FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT PERSONNEL IN REGARD TO THE VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF, HAWAII COUNTY RESIDENT, THE REVEREND ROGER CHRISTIE.".
- "PDF version of SR12.".
- "SR12, Measure Status.".
- "Feds Reveal Sham of ‘THC Ministry’.".