Advertiser Big Island Bureau
Friday, October 21, 2005
HILO, Hawai'i — For the second time in six years, marijuana advocate Roger Christie is seeking to impeach Big Island elected officials, saying they failed to properly review the county's marijuana eradication program.
Christie, 56, filed documents in Hilo Circuit Court to impeach Mayor Harry Kim and eight of the nine County Council members.
The Hawai'i County Charter requires the signatures of only 100 registered voters to file a petition for impeachment, a process that is handled much like a civil lawsuit before a judge. Christie gathered 183 signatures over the past month and 105 were deemed valid.
"This is about ending the prohibition of marijuana here forever," said Christie, who describes himself as a "cannabis sac-rament minister" in the "THC Ministry." He said the organization provides a religious defense against prosecution for people who use marijuana for spiritual purposes.
The petition accuses the officials of malfeasance for failing to conduct a review of the eradication program. Christie said a program review is required every four years under the County Charter. Bob Jacobson of Puna/Ka'u was the only council member not named in the documents because he favors a review.
Christie said eradication efforts caused a scarcity of marijuana that has caused people to turn to crystal methamphetamine and other dangerous drugs. He filed a similar action against council members and former Mayor Stephen Yamashiro in 1999, but the petition was dismissed because the identity and addresses of those who signed could not be verified.
However, Christie's 1999 effort had an indirect effect on marijuana eradication.
Because county lawyers are prohibited from representing the mayor or council in impeachment proceedings, council members had to pay out of their own pockets to defend themselves against Christie's first petition. The following year, the council voted to accept additional federal funding for eradication only if the county obtained insurance that would protect council members from future legal challenges.
The county was unable to obtain the coverage, so in 2000 police returned $265,000 in U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration funds.
Police said the controversy crippled the eradication program for a time, but the county accepted federal eradication funding in 2001 and the years that followed.
Council Chairman Stacy Higa said he hopes the court will quickly dismiss Christie's latest impeachment filing. He said eradication does not need additional review.
"Any drug is a bad drug, and this has been ongoing for a number of years," Higa said. "The unfortunate thing is that we have to get legal representation."
The impeachment proceeding is pending before Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura.