Roger Christie and the “Green 14”
In the U.S., nearly four out of ten murders, six out of ten rapes and nine out of ten burglaries go unsolved. Law enforcement refuses to commit the time or resources necessary to solve these violent crimes. However marijuana cases are different: the government spends billions of tax dollars every year to arrest and imprison Americans for marijuana crimes. A good example of this is a marijuana case in Hawaii that made headlines in 2010. A marijuana case thegovernment claims is so big that the leader – a minister – must be held in federal prison without bail to protect the community. The government maintains that he is so dangerous the community would be in grave danger were he granted bail. Killers get bail, so do rapists, but Reverend Christie is too great a threat? This case made national news when fourteen residents on the Island of Hawaii were indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2010. Florence Nakakuni, U.S. Attorney for Hawaii, in a highly publicized press conference, told the world the THC ministry was a “huge pot-growing and selling organization that masqueraded as a religious group”.
Does this look like a huge drug dealer’s home?
Selected members of the THC ministry were rousted and arrested in coordinated raids by 13 law enforcement agencies. One of those targeted is Aaron Zeeman, a poor, disabled medical marijuana patient who had nothing illegal in his possession even after police raided him twice. Still the government is seeking a 5 year mandatory minimum sentence for ‘conspiracy’ based on recorded conversations he had on the phone with Roger Christie about marijuana.
It is common knowledge that Roger Christie had conversations regarding marijuana with virtually everyone. That includes elected officials, police and even prosecutors. He testified publicly at county council meetings about the THC ministry, meetings that all the mentioned officials attended at one time or another. Were they all conspiring with Roger? They talked to him about it, and he told them he was dispensing marijuana.
There were two sets of raids, the first raid occurred early in 2010, but no one was arrested. The first raids were well publicized and reinforced what many residents of the Big Island already believed, Roger Christie’s THC ministry was in fact operating within the law. He advertised, had large banners on main street, one of which said – “We use cannabis religiously and so can you!” – the THC ministry operated openly for many years, and even after police raids there were no arrests. Why didn’t the police close down the THC ministry years ago? Why wasn’t Roger arrested long ago? If this was a “huge” pot-growing and selling organization masquerading as a religious group why did the government wait?
Are federal marijuana laws being used to punish political activist here?
What the government is doing to Aaron, Roger, and some of the other green 14, should make Americans sit up and take notice. There were no illegal marijuana plants, money or dried marijuana found at Mr. Zeeman’s property — he had nothing illegal in his possession. The only evidence the government claims to have against him are tape recordings. They claim he talked about marijuana. However marijuana was Roger’s religion, it’s how he communed with god. Roger talked to everyone about cannabis and sacrament. That is not in dispute. Why is Aaron Zeeman’s case different? They want to put Aaron in prison for talking about marijuana with the self proclaimed cannabis minister, from a Ministry that our local government had knowingly allowed to dispense marijuana openly for many years.
Nakakuni says there was a conspiracy to use religion to evade the marijuana laws. There was a conspiracy, just not the one the government has so neatly packaged. The conspiracy is the one the federal government has engaged in for the last two and a half years that led to these indictments. The government planned an elaborate operation that used the full force and resources of 13 law enforcement agencies for over 2 years to turn what should have been a small town marijuana investigation into a fantasy federal case. Thirteen other residents were swept up in the elaborate plan the government set in motion 2 years earlier. After all that planning, cost and effort the government produced very little marijuana. It was not a thousand pounds, or a hundred pounds, not even ten pounds. The police found about32 ounces of marijuana in the THC offices. They may have found some more at some of the other locations but hardly notable when we consider how many tons of marijuana pour into the U.S. every day. Why is the government lying by calling this case a “huge” marijuana dealing operation? The claim is laughable in relation to the DOJ’s own figures.
The police found some plants– but the people that had them are the ones that are getting the deals. Aaron didn’t even know those people, but he is being charged for their plants.
About three million pounds of marijuana is seized at the borders of the United States every year. Marijuana is also the number one domestic cash crop grown in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice says over 8 millions plants were eradicated in 2008 alone. The federal government uses more resources to interdict and eradicate marijuana than any other drug, bar none. Despite these efforts marijuana can be found in every city and town in the United States. The sum of 210,000 pounds (105 tons) was found in one border raid last year, then 2 weeks later another 40 to 50 thousand pounds was found coming through an elaborate tunnel system. These are large organized drug smuggling operations. The THC ministry on the other hand was insignificant in this context. Anyone with any integrity at all would be hard pressed to make the argument that the THC ministry was a “huge drug operation”.
Aaron Zeeman cannot even remember the alleged conversations, because he contracted a neurological disease, Parasitic Meningitis (Rat Lung disease), prior to those conversations. The disease left a lesion on his brain and his memory has been greatly affected. He still has not recovered and according to friends his mental abilities have yet to return to normal. After Aaron was stricken, Roger Christie found him in a hotel room suffering the serious effects of the rat lung disease. Roger anointed him with Holy oil and prayed over Aaron. That created a bond between Aaron and Roger that was very strong. Aaron then helped Roger in his successful campaign to get Lowest Law Enforcement for Cannabis on the ballot. The initiative passed overwhelmingly and becamelaw. That attracted the attention of the government, they were shocked when the initiative passed and they decided they had to do something. Roger was winning the hearts of the people in Hawaii county. Hawaii county police chief Kobijiri and prosecutor Jay Kimura both testified at county council meetings that they would not obey the new voter passed law. This case was manufactured as payback for those political activities. The political implications of the case are clear.
Aaron suffers the effects from the parasites (microscopic worms) that infect his entire nervous system to this day. His brain and mental capacities were impaired by this. He also has and still suffers from chronic neuropathic pain throughout his extremities. The damage the parasitic worms did to his brain and nervous system are ongoing. Aaron credits Roger with helping him get through the sometimes fatal disease.
But that’s not the worst of it for Aaron: As a result of his arrest, Aaron’s daughter is now living on the mainland. He has lost what mattered most to him. When the police raided his property, they brought Child Protective Services with them. Why? The government took the children from some defendants in this case. They then used the children to pressure the parents to become state witnesses. The implied threat is clear: testify for the government or lose your children. The government’s actions in this case have crossed the line of what a free society expects of it.
Many church members believed the religious practices of the THC ministry were covered by constitutional protections of freedom of religion. Roger had been openly practicing his religion out of the well known store front for most of the last decade. He advertised, testified at public hearings, was quoted in the local paper and did interviews in magazines like High Times.
People believed what Roger was saying, why shouldn’t they? He had marijuana plants in his office and openly dispensed marijuana for many years. If he was breaking the law, the police could have arrested him at any time, but they didn’t. Why not? By allowing THC ministries to dispense marijuana openly for nearly a decade, the government itself promoted the faith many people in Hawaii County and around the country had in what Roger preached and practiced. Because the government allowed the THC ministry to operate openly for so many years, people came to expect and did believe that they were protected under the constitution. Roger’s message was hardly a secret.The authorities were well aware of this but did nothing, even as the membership continued to increase and more and more people became convinced the religious use of marijuana was legal through Roger Christie’s THC ministry.
The Politics Of The War On Marijuana
Over 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana crimes every year, most for possession of small amounts and the prisons are full of these non violent people that hurt no one.
Roger Christie’s marijuana activism has been well documented over the last 25 years, most of the residents on the Big Island, and people across the country even around the world have heard of Roger and the THC ministry. Aaron on the other hand is not widely known for activism, or marijuana, he is known in the community as a loving father, for founding a local football league, and for always being willing to help those in need .
Aaron’s situation is devastating. He really needs some good legal help that he is not getting right now and time is running out. This man lives in an old army tent and had nothing illegal at all. He was arrested and charged with growing plants the police found at someone else’s home. Aaron had never met or talked to the people that actually possessed the plants that he is charged with growing.
Welcome to federal drug conspiracy law. The people that actually had the plants Aaron is charged with growin made a deal to testify against Roger Christie in exchange for reduced sentences. Aaron is facing federal prison for their plants, plants he knew nothing about. The government facilitated, created and nurtured this whole case. They in effect manufactured this case out of what should have been just another small town marijuana bust, and now Aaron is suppose to pay the price? The question becomes why, why not just arrest Roger Christie years ago if he was breaking the law? By not stepping in years ago, the government by their actions became a party to establishing the belief that the THC ministry was operating legally. By their actions the government is guilty of creating the whole case; they could have stopped this years ago but didn’t. The government’s own records establish they knew about everything that was happening. How could they not? Everybody knew about it! Those are the facts – the government knowingly and intentionally conspired to create this whole drug cartel fantasy – to justify their desire to shut Roger Christie up, and they are willing to destroy Aaron to accomplish that.
The facts do not support the government’s case against Aaron Zeeman. He is no drug kingpin by any stretch of the imagination, and the government knows it.
The THC ministry raids netted a total of $21,494.00 in cash, according to Florence Nakakuni, U.S. Attorney for Hawaii. Thirteen law enforcement agencies investigated this case for 2 years. Where is all the money? The government claims there were millions in marijuana– but found virtually no money. So where is it? Below is a picture of the kind of money real drug rings produce, now compare that to the $21,000.00 found in this case. Show me the money!
U.S. banks can launder billions without criminal charges so why should Aaron Zeeman go to prison for doing nothing, it makes no sense, its a marijuana conspiracy for political repression.
This case and many others are a travesty of justice and calls the whole justice system into question.