The Church of Marijuana
I don’t do drugs. I never have in my life. I’ve never smoked a joint, or involved myself in narcotics of any kind. I’ve never even had a sip of beer. I say this because as a young libertarian going to the Free Roger Christie event on the Big Island this past month, most people didn’t believe me when I told them that I was going to represent the Libertarian Party. They just assumed I was going to get high.
Roger Christie, is of course, the marijuana minister. In 2000, Christie got a license from the State of Hawaii as a “cannabis sacrament” minister, and for the next ten years, he distributed marijuana to members of his church “THC Ministries”. Finally, the federal government stepped in and arrested him. He’s been in jail, awaiting trial for the past three years.
Out in the middle of a grassy field near Pahoa, a large group of people stood in a circle holding hands. “We love you Roger!” they cried. Aaron Anderson, a friend of Roger’s, stepped forward and spoke to everyone about the injustices that Roger was facing in a prison on Oahu. Everyone prayed, and then we all sang Happy Birthday. Apparently, it was Roger and Aaron’s birthday.
According to Aaron, the idea was to use the first amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion . . .,” as a way to begin a marijuana ministry. This might seem hopeless to some, but if you think about it, legal marijuana is nothing new. Medical marijuana is already perfectly legal in Hawaii. One only needs to present their “blue card”, and they can receive Hawaii State approved marijuana. Roger Christie had a license to provide marijuana to blue card patients, and he regularly did.
So is it really that far fetched for Roger to take the next step and try to invoke the first amendment to protect marijuana use in his church?
I asked Michael Anthony, a member of THC ministries, “What do you say to people who say, ‘you guys are just using religion to smoke up?’”
“Cannabis spirituality is the foundation of many beliefs,” said Michael, “Roger is a wonderful man, and he has sincerely held religious beliefs, and I know he believes in his heart that he is doing the work of his Creator.”
“Oh! He is so sincere!” he cried, “This is the good fight!”
Now, whether sincerity matters or not, is up for the judge to decide. In the meantime, there are all sorts of other problems with Christie’s case. For example, whether or not you think marijuana should be legalized, isn’t it odd that religion should get a free pass? After all, if the first amendment says that, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion . . .” then doesn’t giving a church a special marijuana license seem like religious favoritism?
For example, murder is illegal. But should religious murderers get a license to kill? Under this logic, a suicide bomber is simply exercising his first amendment rights.
On the other hand, marijuana isn’t the same as murder, and it’s easy to see that marijuana laws themselves are unconstitutional. After all, the Constitution says nothing about doobies.
Regardless, holding Roger without bail does seem to be unfair. Roger is, by all accounts, a peaceful man, who hasn’t seen the light of day in three years. Sure, he may have annoyed some folks. But annoying people is part of what it means to be an American.
Talking to all of his friends and supporters at the Free Roger Christie rally in Pahoa, I noticed how nice everyone was. One lady let me use her tent and table. Others offered me free brownies (I declined). Some people taught me how to juggle, and almost everyone sang songs together. Many were eager to discuss politics, and sign my petition for third party ballot access. I can’t remember the last time I saw such a big group of old timers, and young timers just hanging out together. It’s hard to believe that the man who inspired all this harmony was sitting in federal detention.
“Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel for his case?” I asked Aaron Anderson.
“Well, somehow inside me deep, he going to come out of this,” said Aaron, “It’s just a matter of when and how, and how much pressure we can get, and how much truth we can spread.”
Roger Christie’s trial is scheduled for October. He’s been held without bail since July 2010.