Editor’s note: the following is a letter to Federal Judge Leslie Kobayashi from attorney Matthew C. Winter on the Federal Sentencing of Roger and Share Christie. Right click here to download a formatted copy of the letter.
Honorable Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi
Federal District Court, Honolulu
300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room C-338
Honolulu, HI 96850-0338
Re: The Federal Sentencing of Roger and Share Christie
Dear Judge Kobayashi:
I was the federal public defender who was first appointed to represent Roger Christie in July of
20 I 0. I represented Roger for the better part of a year, until I left the federal defender office for private practice in 2011. I write to give you my thoughts about this man as you consider his sentence.
I spent twelve years as a federal defender: eight years at the San Diego office before moving to
Hawaii. In that time, I have seen the effects of drugs, the war on drugs, and the politics of drugs. I have represented innocents, kingpins, and everyone in between. It is with this background that I share my thoughts about Roger Christie.
The first day I met Roger, I knew this case was different. Here was a man, in his sixties, who
looked and spoke like a college professor. He told me about his life, and how he eventually moved to the Big Island and became spiritually connected with marijuana,
But what impressed me the most was his advocacy, Roger is a man unlike any who I had previously met. He is as far from the glassy-eyed stereotype as one can be. He is first and foremost an advocate for the spiritual use of marijuana; and in this role he has met with Mayors, Police, and Prosecutors. He has lectured and posted flyers all around the Big Island, and he boldly opened the THC Ministry – sign and all – in the middle of downtown Hilo. His unyielding advocacy for the legalization and spiritual use of marijuana is overwhelming. I cannot say that I have met a person, who is as committed to a cause and for as long of a time, as Roger Christie.
But I am now beginning to understand that there are people like Roger, all over the world, who
have successfully been changing how society views marijuana. The societal shift, just since Roger’s
arrest, is quite amazing. Just look to the recent polling and the referendums that have passed in Colorado and Washington.
Then there is Uruguay, which weeks ago passed a law to regulate the production, sale, and
consumption of marijuana. The Economist Magazine just named Uruguay as “Country of the Year” for
its steps to legalize gay marriage and marijuana. The Economist states the following about Uruguay’s marijuana policy: “This is a change so obviously sensible, squeezing out the crooks and allowing the authorities to concentrate on graver crimes . .. . If others followed suit, and other narcotics were included, the damage such drugs wreak on the world would be drastically reduced.” The Economist, Dec. 21, 2013 .
No crooks were squeezed out by Roger Christie ‘s arrest and incarceration. Instead of obtaining
marijuana through the THC Ministry, it was obtained elsewhere. As a society, are we better when people obtain marijuana from a place like the THC Ministry: a place staffed by devotees of its spiritual use, a place with a library of books about the history, use, and politics of marijuana. Or is it better that they obtain it from the street. Marijuana is and will always be available on the Big Island. Roger Christie’s incarceration just pushed it back into the shadows.
But how long will it continue to be in the shadows? Recent polling shows that 57 percent of
Hawaii residents support the legalization of marijuana. (See “Why legal pot didn ‘t happen in Hawaii,” citing a QMark Research Poll, Honolulu Magazine, April 2013 .) As the national trend is showing,
Hawaii is no different in its beliefs about marijuana than the rest of the nation. As a result of his case, this Court has a tremendous insight into Roger Christie’s religious beliefs. He is extremely sincere in those beliefs. And it wasn’t so much these beliefs, but the means and methods of the distribution that brought him under the federal government’s scrutiny. On this point, I have no doubt that Roger has learned his lesson.
Due to the person who Roger Christie is, and the changing views about marijuana, I urge this
Court to consider a sentence of time served. He is different in every way from the drug defendants seen by this Court. His spiritual beliefs are sincere and legitimate, and it is now a time when a strong majority of our State supports the legalization of marijuana.
In addition, I urge this Court to not attach a supervised release condition barring his use and
personal possession of marijuana. If his religious beliefs are truly sincere, then he should not be asked to set them aside. His personal use is very different than the charges that brought him before this Court.
Finally, there is another person who has been deeply impacted by Roger Christie ‘s arrest and
incarceration: that is Share Christie, Roger’s wife. Her separation from Roger was deeply painful and should strongly be considered by this Court in fashioning her punishment. She has suffered enough. The further separation of this couple will not aid either of them or society. I urge this Court to grant Share Christie probation, so she and Roger can soon be reunited.
Thank you for your consideration.
Matthew C. Winter