Tuesday, June 14, 2016

U.S. v. Christie (9th Cir. - June 14, 2016)

One of the problems with openly flouting federal drug laws is that, eventually, you may draw some interest from the federal government.  As Roger and Sherryanne Christie find out here.

Things were going swimmingly for a while.  Roger opens up the "Hawaii Cannabis Ministry" in Hilo, Hawaii in 2000.  Many sheep, seeking spiritual communion via marijuana, join his flock.  He says he has two to three thousand converts in Hawaii and 62,000 members of the church worldwide.  So many members, so much need for marijuana.  He's distributing half a pound of marijuana to his flock every day, and lines sometimes form out to the sidewalk in front of the church in order to receive his special sacrament.

Word of mouth and promises from Mr. Christie that church members will be free from arrest eventually prompt a federal investigation and, thereafter, an indictment.  And after pleading guilty (after some adverse pretrial rulings from the district court), Roger is sentenced to five years in prison and Sherryanne, his "assistant manager" (and eventual wife), receives a little over two years.

The Ninth Circuit affirms.  There's a legitimate state interest in stopping diversion of marijuana from religious facilities.  So the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act doesn't preclude Mr. and Mrs. Christie's convictions.

I'm certain it was good while it lasted, though.