Hawaii Pot Minister's Bail Denial Called 'Rare'

THC Ministry

Hilo marijuana minister Roger Christie has been held for 17 months without bail in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center.

While his 13 co-defendants were released pending trial, Christie — charged with growing, selling and possessing pot — has been denied bail because he is considered a "danger to the community."

How unusual is it for someone charged with a felony to be denied bail?

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice told Civil Beat, "I'm sorry, that's not something we would track. I'm not aware of anyone that does."

At the U.S. Attorney's office in Honolulu, Civil Beat's inquiry was directed to Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliot Enoki. His voicemail said he was out of the office until Jan. 3

However, Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, a Vermont monthly that reports on prisoner rights, court rulings and prison issues, said denying bail in felony cases is not unusual.

"Something like 40 percent of federal defendants are held pretrial without bail," he said. "Some people spend years in jail awaiting trial without bail. So that is pretty normal. The presumption of innocence isn't what it used to be apparently."

Meanwhile, a national advocate for drug-law reform who pays attention to state and federal marijuana cases, said he is "amazed" about the Christie case.

"I cannot recall hearing of another (drug) case in many years in which they have simply refused to set bond on the basis that someone is a threat to the community," said Keith Stroup, legal council for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Have feedback? Suggestions?