The first of 13 co-defendants from The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry pleaded guilty in federal court Monday and has agreed to cooperate with the government in the drug-trafficking case against founder Roger Christie and other ministry members.

Michael B. Shapiro, 63, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess and distribute 284 marijuana plants.

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“I sold 3 1/2 pounds ( of marijuana ) to Roger Christie. I also offered him three quarter-pound ( quantities of marijuana ),” Shapiro told U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi.

Shapiro was arrested by county and federal law enforcement officers along with Christie and 12 other Hawaii island residents on July 8, 2010. Christie, leader of the Hilo ministry, remains behind bars, unable to convince a federal judge he should be released while awaiting trial.

At the time of the arrests, Christie was described as head of a major cannabis growing, processing and distribution ring, with his associates growing or supplying the marijuana.

On Monday, Shapiro said he not only sold marijuana to Christie, but knows of others who did, including some who supplied Christie with more than 100 plants.

In exchange for Shapiro’s guilty plea to conspiracy and his promise to cooperate, the prosecutor agreed to drop three other charges against him. They are manufacturing two marijuana plants, being part of the manufacturing of 284 marijuana plants and possessing, with the others, the 284 plants with the intent distribute them.

Shapiro could be sentenced to a minimum of five years and maximum of 40 years in prison.

Christie and the 12 remaining defendants are scheduled to stand trial in August.

Authorities said Christie had been under investigation for two years, and during that time federal and county law enforcement seized 2,296 marijuana plants, nine weapons, 33 pounds of processed marijuana, more than $21,000 cash and four properties.

Christie has maintained that use of marijuana was for religious purposes as sacrament, the cultivation and enjoyment of which is a fundamental human right provided by God and protected by the First Amendment.

Hawaii’s medical marijuana law allows a person who has a physician’s certification to possess a certain amount of marijuana to treat a debilitating condition.

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News Hawk – 420 Warrior 420 MAGAZINE
Location: Hawaii
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Author: Nelson Daranciang
Copyright: 2012 Star Advertiser