Judge: Cannabis Minister Allowed Religious Defense

On Wednesday, July 31, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi ruled that imprisoned Cannabis Minister, Rev. Roger Christie, can present a religious defense at trial.

The court ruled as a matter of law that Christie’s religion is legitimate, his belief is sincere, and that the government’s action was a substantial burden on the free exercise of his religion.

The ruling establishes that the prosecution must now prove at a hearing that Christie’s arrest and incarceration was the least restrictive means of upholding the law — and that the federal government had a compelling interest in prosecuting him.

The Court has yet to rule on Christie’s recent RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) motion. If she grants the motion, the case against Christie will be dismissed. If she does not grant the motion, Christie will still be able to present a religious defense at trial as to the element of the intent to distribute.

Christie has been held without bail at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center since his arrest by federal authorities on July 8, 2010. He is charged with distributing marijuana to his parishioners.

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