A 63-year-old Big Island man accused of marijuana trafficking is planning to change his plea in a hearing on Friday.
Roger Christie promoted the religious use of marijuana for years at The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry in Hilo. He was arrested in July 2010 and his operation was shut down. He has been in custody for more than three years.
Christie's attorney says his client will enter a guilty plea to distribution of marijuana because he was factually doing that. However, Christie strongly believes his actions were protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In the plea agreement, Christie reserves the right to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Christie faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. However, under sentencing guidelines, he could be out of jail in about six months.
Christie's wife will remain free on appeal. As part of the plea deal, she will not serve a mandatory minimum.