By Hokulani Cheneviere | An excerpt edited from her blog Who’s Afraid of the Big Island’s Pot Guru?
Roger Christie arrived on the windward side of this Moku Nui (Big island) in the mid 80’s and knew instantly it was the place for him. Pahoa town in lower Puna offered the perfect lifestyle for a young, dynamic, blue- eyed hippie dude and his blue VW camper bus home. Roger, with his natural born Aloha spirit, quickly found his place, in the heart of Puna District.
By the early nineties he had opened up the state’s first hemp store (Hawaii Hemp Company) in Pahoa with two partners. Things got interesting, though, when they got busted for importing FDA approved hemp seeds and the outcome of that has not been forgotten in the County Prosecutors office since the whole thing blew up in their face when it was learned how certain indivduals attempted to pull a fast one on Roger and his partners.
Cannabis Culture wrote an article about this and it is well worth reading.
Twenty four years on this island has given Roger the reputation as the island’s “Pot Guru”. He has certainly garnered his fare share of publicity, notoriety and controversy. He has been labeled and accused of many transgressions and adjectives, including charlatan, fake, sinister, greedy, deceptive, major drug trafficker and recently, “DANGER to the community. This articulate gentleman minister ran for mayor twice, exposed the cause of the vicious meth epidemic, and won the Ho’omaluhia (Peacemaker)Award in 2000. He is a warm, gracious and charismatic fellow, never swears, treats his 92 year old mother like a Queen, and has lots of friends. He has a near “rockstar” status amongst his many supporters. And as expected, he does have an abundant supply of detractors.
This Peacemaker,minister, rockstar has now been declared “a danger to the community” by the US District Attorney and 5 different 9th Circuit Court judges.
It took 24 years for the DEA to learn Roger might be spoiling their employment futures, and on July 8th, 2010, he was raided, arrested, handcuffed and shackled along with his lover, Share St. Cyr, and 12 others, collectively known as the GREEN 14. In a multi-agency, coordinated operation, with a secret indictment in place, they armored themselves up with the standard SWAT gear and swooped in for the bust at their usual pre-scheduled appointment-the crack of dawn. Untold fleets of government agency manpower must have been utilized to pull this one off. It probably didn’t take a lot of arm twisting, either, to get everyone on board for an all-expenses-paid trip to the Islands. What an easy, care-free bust to go after a flock of pot growing religious users! Who wouldn’t drop everything for that mission? Harmless, peaceful minister with no weapons? Yeah, of course.
The district attorney, Michael Kawahara declares that Roger Christie thinks he is ABOVE THE LAW and therefore should be held without bail since this makes him a danger to the community. The Judges all agree, so there he sits, unable to have due process, unable to defend himself, and unable to effectively prepare for this landmark case (should we be hiding kids and puppies from him is the real question here?)
Reverend Roger Christie is a 61 one year old, Cannabis Liberator, Human Rights Activist, licensed Hawaii Cannabis Minister, and founder of the THC-Ministry that has operated in full view, on downtown Hilo’s bayfront for over 10 years. Following is Roger’s account of himself:
“I’m a American baby boomer guy who was really into the peace and love culture back in the late 1960’s and 70’s. I saw lots of good that happened to our generation from the happy, healthy use of Cannabis.
Organic farming, questioning authority, communes, food co-ops, natural/home birthing, great music everywhere, the Mother Earth News, Whole Earth Catalog type lifestyles, hippies, anti-war activists, experimenting with almost everything, hitchhiking, Jesus freaks, Krishna’s and drop-outs and so much more with virtually everyone using ‘marijuana’. It was a very promising and uplifting era and lots of fun and political stresses, too … until the ‘war on marijuana’ came along and put an end to the generational party.
The government couldn’t ‘get us’ for our politics, but they found out that when they take away the Cannabis, they usually take away the protests. My personal morality prevented me from serving in the US Army as a trained ‘intelligence analyst’ back in the Vietnam war, but I willingly volunteered for duty as an intelligence analyst in the war on people who use Cannabis.
My journey led me to the Religious Science Church of Hilo for fellowship and metaphysics ‘practitioner’ training back in the late 1980’s on the big island. The Religion of Jesus Church then showed me how to blend Cannabis and spirituality together for my highest good as a “sacrament”. “A sacrament is the visible form of an invisible grace.” according to St. Augustine. I got it.
Made perfect sense to me as I was not a ‘patient’ in need of marijuana medicine, other than to reduce the stresses of life and as a barrier to alcohol. Some of my heroes have been Albert Schweitzer, Mother Theresa, William Wallace (Braveheart), Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.”
The crowning glory of the THC-Ministry was the Holy Anointing Oil found in Exodus 30:23. Through the works of Chris Bennett he had learned that the ingredients in the Hebrew translation included “Kana bos” or Keneh bosm, NOT calumus as the King James version lists.
Roger decided he would re-create this recipe, that called for NOT ounces, but POUNDS of the sacred herb, along with gallons of olive oil, cinnamon and myrhh. So, he blessed the giant pot of fragrant oil, and bottled it up.
A week later, a woman with gangrene on her legs and imminent amputation, received it and and behold, the first miracle! Her gangrene went away and she did not need to amputate. Naturally the Cannabis minister was beside himself with joy.
He gave small tincture bottles of this to everyone who asked. Anointings and blessings were done for anyone who showed up from 2pm-5pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Larger bottles were available for a reasonable donation to the ministry. Many new members racked with guilt their entire lives because they preferred the buzz of the illegal herb, would break down in tears upon learning that their favorite inebriant was, in fact, a sacred plant entheogen. (I, myself, am one of those people!)
Was the ministry really a cover for a huge drug trafficking operation as the DEA and others have claimed?
The investigation into this illicit marijuana ring was conducted by a joint team of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Hawaii County Police Department, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Postal Inspection Service, and Hawaii High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshals Service, the Coast Guard, the State of Hawaii Narcotics Enforcement Division, the State Department of Public Safety and the Hawaii National Guard Counter Drug Unit.
They used a military Cargo plane to fly the 14 defendants to Honolulu. How much weed did they find in Roger’s residence? Two pounds. As in ONE KILO. One of the Green 14 had just 2 plants! Others had much more but never on the scale of the Mexicans and their tractor trailer tonnages. How much money was found in Roger’s home? $21, 494. That was a rainy day fund to cover rent, utilities and wages for the Ministry and included $10,000 of Roger’s entire LIFE savings! (Roger does admit, for a 61 year old guy, to have this puny amount for his savings and retirement IS pathetic and embarrassing!)
The Fed’s actually boasted that they had knocked out a huge drug ring in Hawaii!!!! HUGE? (What metric do they use to define “HUGE”?)
And would there be enough spreadsheets to calculate the cost of this trial with 14 defendants ALL but one using public defenders? Already, the estimate for the indictment and bust and all expenses paid trip for the battalion of Government agency forces is in the millions! Together the Green 14 had about 3000 plants. (One grower did have over a thousand plants.)
With the Fed’s metric in mind, let’s have a grand tour of this HUGE Drug trafficker’s opulent, lavish and illicit lifestyle.
He and his beautiful lover/partner, 59 year old Share St. Cyr, live in a small two bedroom, one bath, third floor walk-up apartment in a questionable part of town. It’s neat and clean, with a street and jungle view. The carpet is on the shabby side and furnishings are spare yet adequate. The décor is light and airy with natural colored fabrics and furnishings. Roger loves the windows to be unobstructed by screens so pesky wasps, bees and gnats tend to buzz around, but do eventually find their way back into their own habitat.
The walls are lined with bookcases full of Cannabis literature. His favorite books are the works of Canadian religious Cannabis scholar, Chris Bennett and of course the iconic, Jack Herer of “The Emperor Wears No Clothes. (Roger knew Jack and attended conferences with him).
Chris Bennett wrote the provocative 2003 piece for High Times-“Was Jesus a Stoner?” Roger has known Chris since the early 90s when both of them were pioneering the gift of hemp seed nutrition.
Roger read his books on cannabis and religion, Green Gold the Tree of Life: Marijuana in Magic and Religion(1995); Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible (2001); and Cannabis and the Soma Solution (2010) and these ideas resonated with him to the point he began THC-Ministries, actualizing many of the ideas contained in the books, and healing people with the Cannabis based Holy Oils used in the Old and New Testament stories.
Roger’s “ride” is the iconic drug dealing model, a 10 year old Toyota Sienna Minivan! And then there’s the mountain bikes for quick get-aways from the DEA. He and his girlfriend, Share, would ride to the $1 Kress Movie Theater and to Hilo’s famous Farmer’s Market.
Roger does walk his talk when it comes to Hemp/Cannabis. Much of his wardrobe is made of fine hemp fabrics and includes shirts, pants and nicely tailored jackets. Hemp is everywhere in his residence, ropes, fabrics, oils, soaps, hemp foods, hemp flags, hemp paper and hemp covered throw pillows, drapes and blankets.
The THC- Ministry, located just minutes, by bicycle, from his residence, was on the second floor of the Moses building on the scenic bayfront of downtown Hilo. The screenless windows drew in the fresh ocean air and offered an unobstructed view of the Hilo bay. The building is old and has survived its fair share of tsunamis. The electrical system is faulty and the termites use their Frequent Diner Cards on the walls and floors.
The lua (bathroom) is tiny and located down the hallway. Dr. Bronner Hemp soaps sat on the sink as Roger insisted that everyone wash up before entering into the sanctuary to receive their drops of Holy Anointing Oil, blessings, tinctures, medicinal preparations or sacraments.
He loved his life ministering to all the kooks, quacks, lost souls, street people, Punatics, prostitutes, wierdos, trolls, and disabled vets. Then there were the legitimate medical patients who had no access to dispensaries since Hawaii has no provisions for this. Roger believed so much in the healing and sacredness of this plant that he did perhaps push the envelope to provide medicine for this one’s who preferred the natural stuff. And he never questioned those who came to him. He already had misjudged a young man who once came to him for herbs. When he saw a huge scar that ran from throat to groin on him, he never again questioned anyone’s sincerity. And that is what a good minister does, he ministers-counseling, encouraging, praying, blessing and educating.
Over 35% of Big Island residents live on some form of assistance from welfare, food stamps, veteran’s pay, disability, and unemployment. Few of them had money to offer donations for “sacraments.” Special “Aloha bags” (shake) were given to these folks. Roger himself, heard to say in one of the 17,000 tapped calls the Feds had, that 60-70 people would come in daily. He was going through at least half a pound of pakas each day. Which made his enemies and opponents to believe that he indeed was making insane amounts of kalas ($$$).
Profits, booty, dirty money? Everyone wants to know where he buried all the loot. Many have made accusations that Roger was making obscene profits. But here’s the deal-a culture where public assistance is the main income, goes along with an attitude that expects EVERYTHING to be cheap and better yet, FREE.
Roger estimates that he has loaned/given away tens of thousands of dollars in cash and freebies in the ten years he has operated the ministry. Was any of it ever paid back? (What do you think?) Undoubtedly, he could sure use some payback right about now! Yet, this is what Roger lived for, to HELP people. In fact, his partner, Share, would get so rattled by all the handouts, that he would tell her, “Sweetheat, better leave and go to the farm”. That was a constant source of disagreement between them. Share thought he was being taken advantage of. Well, yeah!
I don’t think anyone would ever wish to be confined in a windowless cell adjacent to a busy international airport for 7 months. One would expect that a way could be found to use that huge stash of illicit cash to hire the best attorneys? So why does he retain the public defender? Is he just being sensibly frugal or was that $10K life savings pile, truly all he had?
Before the July arrest of the “Green 14” the ministry was raided 3 months prior on March 10th. At that time, the DEA agents did confiscate some cash and 7 cannabis plants, but made NO arrests. (But I thought he was extremely dangerous?) When they left there was no yellow tape around the ministry crime scene and NO arrests. Roger, always the irrepressible optimist, actually believed they were respecting his First Amendment rights! When asked about the raid, his account of the incident was this:
“I felt the DEA. was ‘measuring me’, seeing up-close what I am and we are/were about. When I looked on the ‘search warrant’ it literally said that we “are arguably a legitimate ministry” with “legitimate Ministry customers”.
Legitimate customers and patients need their legitimate sacrament and medicine when they need it! It’s life or death or pain for some of our patients! Thyroid cancer, A.I.D.S., etc. I can see their faces now. Betty Lou and Terry and Blue and… They did NOT give everything back to me after the first raid.
When I asked in writing to get our seized cash back the government responded in writing, certified mail, that they “had accepted my claim and petition” for such! Really? I was thrilled for the positive tone and felt justified that they realized they made a mistake and we were getting our cash BACK. Foolish me! Optimistic me! Plus, I hadn’t been arrested.
They didn’t put a ‘crime scene’ police tape around the place. They said specifically that I/we were NOT under arrest. And I feel to this day that I’m the most legitimate, government-licensed Cannabis Minister in the USA, up til now.
As a symbol of our sincerity and legitimacy, and with the urgency of sick and dying patients, and with some members wanting and needing to stay off of ‘ice’, and others needing to connect with the God of their understanding in a sacramental manner a REAL Minister would carry-on until he couldn’t carry-on. I carried-on helping our ‘flock’ until I could carry-on zero more … under arrest. I took my/our mission to the ‘end of the road’, not because I was scared of the government because they raided us and said, “Boo!”. My ‘mana’ (soul, spirit) and my sincerity demanded that I ‘stay the course’ and I did.”
As for the rest of the defendants-one man living in a tent did have over a thousand plants. Another couple, artisan lettuce farmers, had just over 250 plants. Then there was the one with 2 plants. Another had 800. All together, around 3000 plants among 14 defendants. One defendant with a medical license actually was within his state limit of 7 plants! And remember, this is what the Feds call a BIG drug ring. What do they call those mainland cargo containers that hold TONS? Do those trafficker get bail denials, too?
Seven months have now gone by, and still Roger sits in the Federal Detention Center. No contact with anyone except his public defender. He has access to the Corrlinks email system, but no internet. His girlfriend is NOT his wife so she cannot visit him. And even if they were married, she could ill afford the $200 plus roundtrip airfare to Oahu.
He relies on the Cannabis Charity Foundation to send him $600 month so he can make 5 minute phone calls, use Corrlinks, buy postage for snail mail and a few nickels for the prison commissary. At least the Taxpayers are NOT footing the bill for his exhorbitant country club stay at this Federal prison!