Wednesday | July 26, 2017
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‘Hoping for a last-minute miracle’; Wife of marijuana activist Roger Christie working to prevent her own prison sentence

The wife of a well-known marijuana activist who spent more than four years in federal prison after his Downtown Hilo marijuana ministry was raided is now making a last-ditch effort to prevent her own incarceration.

Share Christie was sentenced in April 2014 to 27 months in prison as a co-defendant of her husband, Roger, but was allowed to remain free while her case was on appeal. The Christies have been twice denied by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and she was ordered to turn herself in on Oct. 11 to the Phoenix Satellite Camp minimum-security prison in Arizona.

“We’re just hoping for a last-minute miracle. I already feel like I’ve been to prison,” said Share Christie, who’s been under federal supervised release since July 2010. “I haven’t violated my probation, which has been over six years. It’s ridiculous. I’m not a criminal.”

Referring to presidential sentence commutations granted nonviolent drug offenders, she said, “When Obama’s letting people out, I’m going in, and it’s wasting tax dollars.”

Added Roger Christie: “I want to do everything we can at the last minute. That’s why we’re going to the court of public opinion.”

Roger Christie, who operated The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry — also known as the THC Ministry — was released from the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu in late 2014 and remains on supervised release, the federal equivalent of probation.

The Christies and a dozen others were arrested July 8, 2010, when local and federal authorities raided the ministry the second time that year and confiscated 284 marijuana plants. Roger Christie was detained without bail while his case proceeded after U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang deemed him “a danger to the community.”

Prosecutors described Christie’s ministry as a front for a drug distribution ring, while Christie has maintained his religion is based on helping people heal through the “sacrament” of medical cannabis.

The Christies eventually pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana after U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi denied their motion for a defense based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but were allowed to appeal their convictions.

“The only issue, it seems, in the whole case was distribution. It’s not that we used and believed in cannabis as a sacrament, that we grew it to use it. Distribution was the hot point,” Roger Christie said. “We were convicted for 284 plants. Now if you have a (medical marijuana dispensary) license, one of eight licenses, you’re allowed to grow 6,000 plants and sell them for a profit. … We’re happy that’s moving along, but punishing Share for another day is cruel and unjust punishment. Her sentence should be vacated now.”

Roger Christie said he’s concerned for the well-being of his 65-year-old wife, whom he said suffers from Lyme Disease.

“She’s health-challenged and, obviously, emotionally challenged by this whole situation,” Roger Christie said. “Her well-being was already challenged and has been since the day we were raided in 2010. I was more prepared for this to happen as an activist for more than 30 years … and Share wasn’t.”

Roger Christie said with the current six years of federal supervision, two-plus years behind bars and then another three years of supervision, his wife “is being sentenced to 11-plus years of punishment.”

“Wow, it seems to me that’s longer than manslaughter and other (violent) crimes, especially when there were no victims and we were ruled sincere and legitimate for our religious rights,” he said. “We’re working as hard as we can to see that she doesn’t go in.”

Share Christie said she was hoping she’d be given the option of reporting to Dublin Federal Correctional Institute’s satellite camp, a minimum-security facility for women 10 miles away from Livermore, Calif., where she has family.

“If I have to go in, at least let me go to a place where my 88-year-old parents can come visit me,” she said. “I have some connection there, instead of sending me to Arizona, where I’ve always heard horror stories about it.”

Roger Christie described the prospect of his wife being incarcerated in Phoenix as “banishment.”

“You’re separated from your ohana, your support system. And that’s a level of punishment in itself,” he said.

The Christies can still petition the U.S. Supreme Court but have to file their appeal by November. The lawyers who previously represented them no longer do so.

“As Share is facing this critical time in her life and her legal life, she’s unrepresented. So, we’re looking for a new lawyer for her, somebody who can help get her through this,” Roger Christie said. “This is a modern day witch hunt. We hope to be the last marijuana trial. That was our prayer and it remains our prayer, that people see cannabis as the tree of life and respect the fundamental religious right to use cannabis. … The government, I think, has no rightful jurisdiction to prohibit green plants. Drugs and plants are vastly different things. They can regulate drugs all they want, as far as I’m concerned. But green plants are here for our sustenance.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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