Who's Afraid of the Big Island's Cannabis Minister?
"What a trick this is for a plant, to produce a chemical so mysterious in its effects on human consciousness that the plant itself becomes the sacrament, deserving of humankind's worshipful care and dissemination."
- Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire
She's called the Botanical Messiah - the Plant messenger. She's a member of the Entheogen Ohana. "Within GOD Creates". Cannabis, psilocybin, peyote and mescaline are a few of these plant Entheogens.
Through her Anandamide she delivers the Bliss. Ananda, from Sanskrit, it means bliss or delight. It's in chocolate, too!
Kana bos and Keneh bosm is marijuana in Hebrew. It's the sweet fragrant cane in the Holy Anointing Oil of the Old Testament. Listed as calamus in the King James version, a mistranslation from the Septuagint. "The Living Torah" has the 411. Make your own conclusions if it seems a bit nebulous.
Ganja, Tai ma, dagga, chanvre, hanf, marijuana, cannabis, pakalolo. Used for centuries in religion, as well as for medicines, textiles, fuel, and inebriant. Solid proof that GOD gave humans special plants with multiple uses. Evidence that our CREATOR gave us certain plants that help us to feel joy, bliss, and delight.
Botanical Messiah, Plant Messenger. As in God's "friends and family network" with human beings. To be high is to feel GOD within. GOD aka "MOST HIGH". Within GOD creates. HOLY SMOKE. Joy, bliss, delight, pono, peace, love, laughter, smiles.... ALOHA.
KAPU. A'ole. Pilikia. Taboo. Forbidden. Prohibition. Devil weed. Reefer madness.
Why is everyone making so much huhu over a plant? WTF was GOD thinking, giving us all those "botanical messiahs"? This has been such a major pain in da okole for human beings. Long-ass jail terms for HIS frickin plants? This is not funny, Dude. What were YOU thinking? I thought YOU loved us. How is it, that a plant that brings Ananda can be so dangerous? And if possessing these plants is a crime, then show me the victims.
The Chinese once called it Tai Ma The GREAT PLANT. Some say it means Great Mother. Same difference. Tai=GREAT Ma=Mama or Plant. Are you wordless yet? Do you need a diaper? How about a tissue then?
What other plant on the face of the earth can be used for food, livestock feed, medicine, fuel, fabric, paper, building material, rope, sacrament and inebriant? Sometimes I wonder if this plant didn't come from another planet, it's so wondrous.
Its use as medicine is astounding enough: appetite stimulant, aphrodisiac, anti-depressant, analgesic, sleep aid, and provides relief for glaucoma, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS, Fibromyalgia, seizures, digestion problems, menstrual cramps and nausea. That's just a few of its uses. It used to be that Cannabis meds were in every household, until Bayer Aspirin came on the scene about 1910 or so. Mother's soothed their colicky babies with it. For real.
The Founding Fathers had a dream of all citizens being able to exercise their spiritual leanings without interference from Government. It was such an important right, that it became part of the First Amendment to the Constitution. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew the India hemp and encouraged everyone else to as well. Benjamin Franklin had a mill that made rag paper out of hemp. They drafted up the Constitution on that rag paper. Can one assume then, that hemp and cannabis prohibition would be...er...ummm...cough, cough....UN-constitutional?
It has always been a very valuable crop and has even been used as currency in the early 19th century. Hemp cultivation allowed the country to wean off of European imports. In Colonial Virginia, it was illegal not to grow it! Can you believe that?
How is it that such a useful plant has become so dangerous for humans?
Even the DEA's own Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young, ruled in a landmark case in 1988, that "marijuana is one of the safest, most therapeutically-active substances known to man, safer than many foods we commonly consume."
Forty years ago, Richard Nixon and his cronies were getting pretty pissed at all those baby boomer, long-haired hippy freaks with their protests and flag-burning antics. Imagine ole Tricky Dicky shaking like a Chihuahua over all those twenty somethings, going all feral and wild in the streets over the draft and Viet Nam. TPTB had to do something. Blamed it all on the pot those idiot kids were smoking. Trot out that old Reefer Madness flick. (What a great investment that film was for its producer!)
If Viet Nam wasn't enough, they declared war on drugs. The Controlled Substance Act was typed up and configured. It gave all drugs a classification based on their usefulness. The safest, most therapeutical one, with a penstroke, became Schedule ONE – the MOST dangerous with zero value for ANYTHING.
Why has this plant fallen so far from its lofty place in the Botanical Kingdom? The GREAT PLANT/MOTHER-Botanica non grata? Is this some cosmic screw-up or is someone very AFRAID of this particular plant?
Aloha, according to Dr. Serge Kahili King, writer and teacher of Hawaiian culture, means "Joyful sharing of life energy in the present". JOYFUL! Inhaling holy smoke is the fastest route to joyful sharing of each others life energy. Middle Eastern tribes would gather in tents and burn it like incense. Tribal highs! Can you imagine communal inhaling of the ganja smoke with your brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas? That's what they did. Like luaus, but in tents. You gotta figure there must have been some serious feasting after all that inhaling. Cheee hoooo!
Cannabis plus Hawaii? Joyful, joyous ALOHA! Heaven right here on Earth. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Roger Christie was licensed by the State of Hawaii, Department of Health in June 2000. As far as anyone knows, he is the first licensed Cannabis Sacrament Minister in the United States. Licensed to offer the sacrament of an illegal plant. Seal of approval by the State of Hawaii. Shakas and mahalo nui loa to da First Amendment, braddahs and sistahs! It's a sacrament, all right. The original sacrament. We're talking tens of thousands of years kind of sacrament. Humans have been using this plant that long to connect with the CREATOR.
The Botanical Messiah according to Reverend Roger:
I knew my instincts were correct to smoke Cannabis and follow the 'marijuana trail' wherever it leads. Turns out that it leads to lots of happiness, healing of body and mind and a deep spiritual connection with a safe and natural plant sacrament. I consider Cannabis to be a "Botanical Messiah", a savior in a plant.
Save people from what?
Hunger – with its nutritional seeds and the juice of its leaves.
Cold – with its warm and sturdy organic fibers made into cloth.
Exposure – with its fibers and hurds made into MDP, medium density particleboard, and extruded lumber for shelter.
Sickness – with its safe herbal remedies made simply as tea from the leaves, smoke, vapor, tincture, poultice, etc.
Stress – thus preventing dis-ease of many types.
Spiritual disconnect – with its sacrament from smoke, vapor, tincture and more and the circle of instant friends it attracts.
Religious misconception – with the knowledge of the sacramental history of Cannabis as the world's most widely-used sacrament it can dispel the myths of many world religions that began many millennia ago with cannabis as their sacrament. (Soma, Haoma, etc.)
Environmental disaster – with the use of hemp as a substitute for trees for paper and building materials, building soil, preventing erosion, and adding monoterpenes into the atmosphere helping to heal ozone depletion. Also phytoremediation, the cleaning-up of toxic soil contamination by growing hemp and pulling the toxins out like its done at Chernobyl.
Also replenishing the wild bird populations that have a need for the nutritious hempseed.
And so much more. Now THAT'S a 'saviour'!
In the 70's, the Big Island, with its vast tracts of raw subdivided land, was a mecca for the West Coast counter culture. One district, Puna, is bigger than the entire island of Oahu- – from the town of Volcano to the eastern tip of Pohoiki, it's a one hour drive. It's at least 2500 miles from the nearest land mass, truly the last frontier. Few to zero amenities and too expensive for drop-in visits from the 'rents. It was and still is a major re-location destination for urban refugees. Certainly not the kind of place, if one needs shopping malls, cable TV, and high-speed internet, but for those maverick types it was and still is the ideal place to re-invent and pursue the inner passions. It's a tropical paradise, not far from the equator and...BONUS...it's one of the 50 states! Grow the herbs and vegetables, raise a few chickens, live off the grid, homeschool the kids...in Hawaii. Oh yeah. And plenty of absentee-owned vacant land...CHOKE. (Pidgin talk-means plenty!)
The Pakalolo Culture. It’s hiding in plain sight and – like its neighbor across the water, California – it's the biggest cash crop. It's much like the Emerald Triangle of Northern California. Ace Hardware and Long's Drugstore, along with several garden and grow shops, sell the favored growing mediums and fertilizers. "Tobacco shops" and Tattoo parlors far outnumber booksellers and health food stores. The island's vast expanses of thick tropical forests, vacant land plots, and rich volcanic soil, offer a near-perfect growing environment for the year-round cultivation of this mysterious and highly valuable plant.
The number one radio station, Native FM, features daily "420 breaks" and a playlist of local “Jawaiian” (Hawaiian reggae) musicians as well as classic reggae, roots, and Hawaiian hip-hop. The advertising revenue is top-heavy with smoke shops, greenhouse suppliers, Medical Marijuana Clinics, and tattoo parlors. Bob Marley paraphernalia has not lost any of its appeal and continues to be a common political, spiritual and fashion statement. Many Rastafarians call the Big Island home, and it is not uncommon to see respectable, educated, church going citizens sporting dreadlocks.
Roger Christie arrived on the windward side of this Moku Nui (Big island) in the mid 80’s and knew it was the place for him. Pahoa town in lower Puna offered the perfect lifestyle for a young, dynamic, blue-eyed counter-culture guy and his VW camper bus. One didn’t need a Phd in "Ganjanomics" to see that Pakalolo was the de-facto economy of this tropical style, Wild West island frontier. Ever the dynamic optimist, Roger and Aloha were a match made in heaven. He established himself in a rickety, termite infested storefront in downtown Pahoa, and became the "go-to" guy for anything and everything to do with hemp and cannabis legalization, promotion, education, politics and activism. Perfect career choice, for anyone who has a knack for shaking up the status quo.
"I moved to Maui in 1985 from San Francisco to have a new start in life after a relationship break-up. I was on Maui for almost a year when I decided to visit the Big Island for a short vacation. One hour in Hilo was all it took for me to fall in love with it. I remember it well; Columbus Day October 12, 1986. I checked-in to the Lanakai Hotel, now the Wild Ginger Inn. As I breathed-in the atmosphere and the ocean air I looked at the guest register and there was 'bud shake' all over it, as if someone had just rolled a joint right there! The Manager happily offered me the shake and said, "sign right here". I was hooked! The funky architecture, the laid-back, local lifestyle, the lack of tourists, Mauna Kea, the weather, all the fresh water, cheap land and rent, the cannabis! It all added-up to me, settling very happily on the windward side of Moku Nui, the Big Island of Hawai'i, and calling it my new home. Ganjaloha!"
By the early nineties he had opened up the state's first hemp retail store, Hawaiian Hemp Company in Pahoa, with two partners, Aaron Anderson and Dwight Kondo. Things got interesting, though, when Aaron and Roger, got busted for importing USDA/DEA-approved hemp seeds (bird seeds). They were planning to offer a special hemp seed banquet and had ordered 25 pounds of the de-natured seeds. Hawaii County police pounced on the shipment and made the arrest. But like rotten chicken eggs, it all blew up in the court room when certain shenanigans came under the Judge's scrutiny.
From the prosecuting attorney's inter-office memos, it was discovered that Roger and Aaron were, in fact, arrested for their vocal hemp activism. (There's that First Amendment violation thingy, again) Then, two law enforcement personnel, looking to frame the business duo, had attempted to sprout some of the seeds and swapped out a few of the de-natured ones for the psychoactive variety.
It took less than five minutes for the Judge to heave the whole stinking pile into the rubbish can, wherein, Roger and his partner turned around and sued the Prosecuting Attorney's office for damages and lost revenue, and won a whopping $75,000 settlement. The pair, in fact, prosecuted the prosecutor for "selective prosecution" since anyone else could have purchased these seeds without impunity. The outcome of this must not have sat well in the Prosecuting Attorney's office. Being that Revenge is always a dish best served COLD, many have wondered if there wasn't some long term vendetta against the two. But, that's just speculation. Cannabis Culture Magazine published an article about the incident called "Hawaii Hemp Heroes", in 2003.
Twenty four years on this island has firmly secured Roger's reputation as the island's "Pot Guru". Along the way, he has garnered his fare share of publicity, notoriety and controversy. He has been labeled and accused of many transgressions and expletives, including charlatan, fake, sinister, greedy, deceptive, Holy man, ganja man, drug dealer, and most recently, "DANGER to the community". This articulate, humble, personable and gentlemanly minister has run for mayor twice, and in 2000 won the Drug Policy Alliance of Hawaii's Ho'omaluhia Award (peacemaker). He exposed the "marijuana eradication program" as the cause of the vicious meth epidemic, after he'd run across a suppressed government-funded study and with that in hand, stood before the county council, revealing the unintended consequences of the devastating Green Harvest missions.
Roger has helped to pioneer the use of hemp foods and clothing and to get the only hemp research facility in the USA approved for Hawaii. He wrote the lawsuit that resulted in grounding of all marijuana eradication helicopters in the year 2000 on the Big Island. In one of the most celebrated initiatives, he was behind the Peaceful Sky/Lowest Level of Law Enforcement Priority Cannabis Initiative. This allowed citizens to have 24 plants or 24 ounces. It wasn't exactly decriminalization, just lowest level priority for law enforcement. He stayed behind the scenes on this one to make it work, and a great team effort helped it to pass on election day 2008. A grant from the Marijuana Policy Project added some critical funding and helped to secure a resounding 58% YES vote.
High Times Magazine thought the 24-plant/lowest level deal was "da bomb" and gave Hawaii County an honorable mention as one of the Top Ten Cities for obtaining herbs. (Shoots brah, the Big Island isn't even close to being a city!) Unfortunately, Hawaii County refuses to honor this law as Green Harvest helicopters were out in force during the recent harvest season. The county prosecutor's office wave it off, saying that State and Federal laws trump the will of the people. Still, plenty pakas make it into the barn. The real fun part about this war on plants is that with all the herbs floating around, the prices have plummeted to about $125-$200/oz. Oh, and to clarify, that was the price at harvest time. It's probably higher now.
It would be an understatement to say he has been a powerful force in bringing change and liberation of hemp/cannabis to the State of Hawaii. It did take teamwork, however. He has aligned himself with other local activists to initiate change for hemp, medical marijuana and religious use of Cannabis sacrament, including Aaron Anderson, Dwight Kondo, Pastor Jim Kimmell, Rev. Jonathan Adler (R.I.P.), Rev. Dennis Shields, Pastor Ray Christl and many more dedicated people over the last twenty four years. Roger also credits his significant others with invaluable support over the years.
Roger is one of those individuals that finds blessings in every situation. He exudes graciousness and genteel manners, a product of his upbringing. A true maverick kind of guy, he's charismatic and articulate, rarely swears, treats his 83-year-old mother like a queen, and has many friends, admirers, and fans. He does have a rockstar aura about him with an arresting handsomeness and youthful appearance. The dark brown hair is just what his mama gave him. Everyone asks if his hair is really that color. His girlfriend and partner, Share, does verify that Grecian Formula is NOT on the shopping list. (Did I mention that cannabis is a youth elixir?)
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 civilian duty as an intelligence analyst for WE THE 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.
One would expect that a such a controversial cannabis minister would have at the least a few bothersome detractors to make life interesting. How does Roger deal with these naysayers? Why he blesses them! He truly believes that everything in Life is a learning opportunity and has been deeply, and profoundly inspired by the esteemed Puna professor of Aloha, Serge Kahili King, whose personal mantra is all about BLESSING transgressions and showing gratitude for lessons learned. This philosophy has its foundation in the ancient Hawaiian path of Huna. The professor wrote, a
This Peacemaker, Minister, rockstar, educator, liberator, humanitarian and "Little Pink Booklet of Aloha" giver, has been declared "a danger to the community" by the US District Attorney and five 9th Circuit Court judges and has been denied bail five times in decisions that are obviously political, not legal or reasonable according to law.
He is a Political Prisoner, since no other explanation makes any sense.
It took 24 years for the DEA to figure out that Roger might be spoiling their employment futures. On July 8th, 2010, he was raided, arrested, handcuffed and shackled along with his Beloved, 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-expense-paid trip to Hawaii. Like shooting Tilapia in a pond-simultaneous raids on a flock of pot growing religious users! Oh yes sir, sign me up for that mission. Pot minister with no weapons? Dang, I'm in.
Screw those Mexican drug cartels, they can HAVE Arizona.
The district attorney, Michael Kawahara, claims 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. (Yes, they have those kinds of laws in the books!) 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.
A peacemaker citizen with zero previous convictions is dangerous to his community? And exercising one's unalienable rights is considered acting ABOVE THE LAW?
Reverend Roger Christie is a 61-year-old, cannabis Liberator, Human Rights Activist, licensed Hawaii Cannabis Minister, and founder of the THC-Ministry. He's been operating, with zero interference from local prosecutors, in full view, within state laws, on downtown Hilo’s bay-front for six years. Surely, there may have been a few gray areas and at times things may have slipped by him. That is how the DEA gets you: Waiting for the screw up. Just like they got Tommy Chong. Hovering and lurking, tapping the phone lines, listening, listening, listening for months until...Booyah! A screw up-nailed on verbiage. Yee haw-BUSTED!
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 calamus as the King James version lists. Roger decided he would re-create this recipe, that called for pounds of the sacred herb, along with gallons of olive oil, along with cinnamon, cassia and myrrh. So, he blessed the giant pot of fragrant oil, and bottled it up. A week later, a woman with incurable gangrene on her legs and imminent amputation, called Roger seeking comfort. Roger asked her if she would try the oil and she did, with a miraculous healing of her legs. Her gangrene went away and she avoided amputation. The cannabis minister thought of Jesus Christ's ministry and how he used an oil to heal, (Mark 6:13) and was mystified by this.
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 donation to the ministry. New members, some of which were Christians, racked with guilt their entire adult lives, because they preferred the buzz of the illegal herb, would break down in tears of joy upon learning that their favorite inebriant was, in fact, a sacred plant entheogen.
Jesus Christ literally means I AM ANOINTED. And what is in the Holy Anointing Oil, again? Je sus = I am, Christ is from the Greek word Chrism. Chrism = to anoint.
After the arrest of the Green 14, the legalization dot-orgs began to speculate about the THC-Ministry. NORML, strangely enough, glossed over the bail denial and threw him under the bus with insinuations and snide remarks. That didn't sit well at all with a lot of their members. Cannabis Culture Magazine and Chris Bennett wondered why NORML was throwing Roger to the lions and thrashed the organization with accusations that they were not supporting this particular activist because he chose to exercise his First Amendment/Religious use rights. NORML was blindsided by the angry barrage of comments and quickly enlisted Russ Belville to salvage the big huhu.
The investigation of the THC-Ministry 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! Another had zero pakas but was arrested for a phone conversation with Roger. 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 if it was such a major kick in the gut why is it that, since Roger's incarceration, there's been a steep drop in the price along with a bumper crop of availability?
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 which included 1000 sprouts! Yes, you read that correctly-SPROUTS!
With that metric in mind, let’s have a grand tour of this HUGE Pot Trafficker’s opulent, lavish and illicit lifestyle.
Roger and his spiritual twin, 59-year-old Share St. Cyr, Holistic Healer/Activist (for 38 years!) and bamboo farmer, 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. Furnishings are spare and Bohemian. The flooring is a work in progress and a certain pesky rug buckles and crawls but overall it is a pleasant, peaceful and inviting environment. The resident pet gecko gobbles up stray gnats and knows where the door is when he's ready to re-join his own kind.
The décor is light and airy with natural colored fabrics and furnishings. Roger loves an open-air atmosphere and prefers the windows to be unobstructed by screens. The Wasps, bees, flies and moths that pay frequent visits do find their way back out. And the ones who stick around become dinner for Mr. Resident Gecko. Roger and Share do the Buddhist thing with these creatures with bug interventions and re-directions. Poisoning and crushing innocent creatures has zero benefits in this peaceful home sanctuary. I have yet to see one B-52 kine cock-a-roach in that home. Maybe the three flights of stairs keeps 'em away?
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, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes. (Roger knew Jack and attended conferences with him).
Chris Bennett says that cannabis is the OLDEST sacrament for religious use. He wrote the provocative, 2003 piece for High Times "Was Jesus a Stoner?" Roger has known of Chris since the early 90's when Roger and Aaron Anderson were pioneering the gift of hempseed 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 textbook Cannabis Minister vehicle, a minivan. An 11-year-old Toyota Sienna! And then there’s the mountain bikes. He and his Beloved Share love to pedal around town and take outings to the $1 Kress Cinema, Hilo’s Farmer’s Market, Abundant Life Healthfood store, thrift shops, and the Palace Theater. Gee whiz, they could be poster kids for AARP! Just two bumperstickers on da whip – not all decoupaged like one Punatic crud-car.
Aloha Aina means Love the land, malama means care for/tend/nurture. Pono has SO many meanings in English but the main definition is kinda like doing one's best at honoring GOD'S commandments. Living Pono. Being right with AKUA.
When it comes to his wardrobe, Roger supports the hemp industry in all the necessaries and accessories of his life. I nevah did check da bibadees (BVD's) fo' hemp. You go ask.
Much of his wardrobe is made of fine hemp fabrics and includes shirts, pants and nicely tailored jackets. He hires local garment kine craftspeople to make these pieces. Hemp is everywhere in his residence, ropes, fabrics, oils, soaps, hemp foods, hemp flags, hemp paper and hemp covered throw pillows, drapes and blankets. Walking the talk.
The THC- Ministry, located just minutes from his home by bicycle, was on the second floor of the Moses building on the scenic bay-front of downtown Hilo. The screenless windows drew in the fresh ocean air and offered a clear view of the Hilo bay. It was clean and organized with a place for everything. Very much a ministry. The hallway walls were covered with literature on history of religious use. Very much a learning experience with lots of lively talkstory for members who would wait there to see Roger.
The Moses Building was built in the 1920's 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, weirdoes, trolls, and disabled vets, artists, dignitaries, lawyers, entrepreneurs, ministers and activists. 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, and as any good minister does, he provided comfort; a safer alternative for those who prefer the natural herb over toxic pharmaceuticals. And he never questioned those who came to him, except that they show valid blue cards or exhibit sincerity as a ministry member. There was a time, when he misjudged a young man who had come to him for herbs. When he saw the huge scar that ran from throat to groin, he never again questioned anyone's motives for needing herbs. He did what any effective minister does, counselling, encouraging, praying, blessing, comforting and educating – Minister, it means literally "to comfort". It's what joyfully got him out of bed each and every morning!
Over 35% of Big Island residents live on some form of assistance from welfare, food stamps, veteran's pay, disability, Social Security and unemployment. Few of them had money to offer donations for “sacraments.” Special “Aloha bags” (shake) were given to these folks. Many, in lieu of cash donations, would leave all manner of garden produce including coconuts, bananas, citrus, lilikoi, lychee, mangos, and papaya. Also lining the ministry hallway would be cans of Spam, chicken eggs, coconuts, artwork, handmade jewelry, and even used clothing. Anything and everything was accepted as a show of gratitude towards the ministry. 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 the MOST half a pound of pakas each day. Eight ounces. Eight OUNCES?! And this is what convinced the DEA that he was piling up insane amounts of kala$? Shoots brah, those government agents have no idea about Hawaiian ways. Zero.
Profits, booty, dirty money? Everyone wants to know where he buried all the loot. The accusations that Roger was making obscene profits was a no-brainer to the DEA. But where their calculations fall apart: A culture on public-assistance-for-income-reality with few to zero resources. There were the members who DID make appropriate donations, but they could hardly compensate for all of those who lacked the extra cash for a little herbal comfort. And believe me, the ones who DON'T got, far outnumber the ones who DO got. In fact, Share would get so concerned about the handouts, loans, and give-aways, Roger would firmly yet gently tell her, "Sweetheat, better leave and go to the farm now". That was his way of letting Share know that she was out of line. Share knew it was useless to suggest he rein in all that helping. Besides, she always says, "I have always asked GOD for the same thing: a man with a vision. And boy did I ever get that!"
But – if he had buried all that tax free booty, then surely there would be circumstantial evidence?
If you had piles of Benjamins, would you have the willpower to withstand seven months in prison confined in a windowless cell directly adjacent to a busy international airport? Wouldn't you figure there'd be some way to access stash to hire one high profile attorney? So why does he retain a public defender? Is he just being sensibly frugal or was that confiscated $10K life savings in the tin box all he had?
Four months prior to the July arrest of the Green 14, the ministry was raided. At that time, the DEA agents did confiscate some cash and seven 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! Roger said of the raid,
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, AIDS, etc. I can see their faces now. Betty Lou and Terry and Blue and the rest of the medical ohana.
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 till 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.
I was very compliant with the search warrant, happy to be cooperative. Because I feel like I have nothing to hide. We provide cannabis sacraments and we're happy to do so. And it's a sacred thing to us. We're standing for religious freedom, using cannabis in private, at home or church. And it's a blessed, beautiful thing.
Can a person be too optimistic about their First Amendment rights? And if so, why does this make them a danger to their community?
As for the rest of the defendants; one man who was living in a tent had a medical license and was within his state limit of seven plants! Another couple, artisan lettuce farmers, had just over 250 plants. Then there was the one with two plants. Another had 800. And then there was the one who had zero plants. Yes, Z-E-R-O. They got him on a phone call. Verbiage.
Three thousand plants. THIS is what the Feds call a BIG drug ring. What about all those cargo containers, on the mainland, with 10, 20, 30 and 105 TONS? Those containers they keep discovering in California, Arizona and Chicago.
Are these traffickers considered "dangerous to their communities" and denied bail?
Seven months have now gone by, and still Roger sits in the Federal Detention Center. No contact with anyone except sporadic to infrequent visits with his public defender. He has access to the Corrlinks email system, but no Internet. Partner Share is not his wife so she is not allowed to visit. And even if they were married, she could ill afford the $300-plus roundtrip airfare to Oahu. He relies on the Cannabis Charity Foundation to send him $600 per month so he can have 300 minutes a month for phone use, Corrlinks email, postage for snail mail and a few nickels for the prison commissary. And...the Taxpayers DO pay the Hotel and room service charges at $100 per day. Now there's a money maker-federal prisons.
Roger finds ways to cope in this situation. He is able to retain his light-heartedness and hopes beyond hope that this may be the LAST marijuana trial. (After all, there was once a LAST WITCH TRIAL when the Salem, Massachusetts Governor's wife was accused of such!) Roger says this goes beyond a religious use defense, it is a human rights issue. WE THE PEOPLE and the planet, with that amazing, hard-wired, endocannabinoid system, are indeed designed by the CREATOR to use this plant for ALL of its 50,000 uses. Food, fuel, textiles, medicine, sacrament and inebriant.
Roger finds hope and comfort from the Bible:
Consider it pure joy whenever you face a trial testing your faith because the testing of faith delivers perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may mature and complete yourself. Blessed is he or she who perseveres under trial because when you have stood the test you will receive the crown of life that God has offered.
To he who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the 'tree of life'.
Roger, first and foremost has always been about the LIBERATION of hemp and cannabis. He sleeps well at night, in that dreary steel cage, knowing he has stayed true to this mission.
As Roger says, "GANJALOHA"!
HELP FREE ROGER CHRISTIE! Share this article and please send donations for his defense to the Cannabis Charity and Education Defense Fund
To read more about this case including the Fed's 46-page deposition: The Last Marijuana Trial
Hokulani Cheneviere, is a self-employed Mu'u Mu'u maker, wife and HipHop-Hula mom who lives in Ola'a, Puna, Kingdom of Hawaii on a two-acre chicken and banana farm. Visit her blog.