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Hawaii: Marijuana Activist Sues, Says Licensing Medical Pot Violates Federal Law

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A longtime activist in Hawaii who is facing criminal charges of selling pot for running a now-defunct medicinal cannabis collective is suing to try to stop the opening of state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

The suit was filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court by Mike Ruggles of Mountain View, naming as defendants Hawaii Governor David Ige, state Health Director Virginia Pressler, state Attorney General Douglas Chin, and the four companies which have been awarded state licenses to grow and sell marijuana, along with those companies' owners, reports West Hawaii Today.

Ruggles' suit alleges that Hawaii's medical marijuana dispensary law is a violation of federal racketeering and drug laws.

“The state cannot license people to break federal law and that’s exactly what they’ve done with these dispensaries," Ruggles claimed. "How does California do it? You’ll notice Act 228 (Hawaii’s medical marijuana law passed in 2000) mirrors California’s medical marijuana law word for word. Dispensaries in California are not regulated, and that’s how they get around (federal law). You see, the state cannot give citizens a license to break federal law. What they can do is ignore federal law being broke.”

Hawaii: Marijuana Advocate Roger Christie Enters Guilty Plea After Three Years Behind Bars

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

After spending the last three-and-a-half years in federal prison with no bail, Reverend Roger Christie, the founder of a Hawaii-based ministry that promoted marijuana use as a religious sacrament, pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court to possession of almost 300 cannabis plants, but reserved the right to appeal his case based on religious grounds.

Christie's case has received national attention, with cannabis advocates saying his pre-trial detention with no bail is unconstitutional. Many called him a political prisoner in the War On Drugs.

Christie, who founded The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry (THC Ministry), entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana and two counts of failing to file tax returns, for the years 2008 and 2009, reports John Burnett at the Hawaii Tribune Herald.

Sentencing is scheduled for January 22 at 2:45 p.m., before U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi. Christie faces up to 20 years' imprisonment on the marijuana charge, with a mandatory minimum of five years. The maximum term on each tax offense is one year.

Christie will forfeit is Wainaku apartment as part of the plea deal. He will also forfeit the $21,494 confiscated by federal agents during a raid in 2010.

Other marijuana-related charges against Christie were dropped as part of the plea deal.

Hawaii: Church Member Files Writ of Habeas Corpus for Jailed Cannabis Minister Roger Christie

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A member of the The Hawaii Cannabis (THC) Ministry in Hilo has filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of his pastor, Rev. Roger Christie, who has been held without bail by the federal government as a pretrial detainee for more than 3 years.

Mike Ruggles, 56, a resident of Mountain View on the Big Island, filed the petition with the United States District Court in Honolulu on July 23.

Rev. Christie was arrested by federal authorities on July 8, 2010, charged with distributing
marijuana to members of his congregation. He has been held without bail at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center for more than 36 months.

“Roger was a pillar of the community and he is sorely missed at this time,” said Ruggles. “Since Roger has been gone, meth use and violent crime have gotten worse, not better. Roger’s influence on the community was more effective than 50 cops on the street.”

Christie founded his Cannabis Ministry in the early 2000s. The Ministry operated openly on the second floor of the historic Moses building in downtown Hilo, right across from Hilo Bay.

Federal authorities conducted an extensive investigation of the Ministry beginning in 2008.

Rev. Christie will argue for his right to base his defense on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act at a hearing scheduled for July 29th at 10:30 a.m. and July 30 at 10:00 a.m. in the Honolulu Federal Building Courtroom of U.S. District Judge Kobayashi.

“Our country was founded on religious freedom,” said Ruggles. “The government wants to shut down his religion. Whose religion is next?”

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