A ten-year legal battle over hemp seed has ended on Hawaii's Big Island with the Hawaii County Council agreeing to settle a lawsuit by hemp advocates who accused county prosecutors of violating their civil rights. Aaron Anderson, 64, and Roger Christie, 52, won the award after a relentless fight that traversed Hawaii criminal and civil courts and a federal district court for years. On a 6-3 vote, the council agreed to pay out $75,000 to the plaintiffs and their lawyers to end the case.

The case began when Anderson and Christie, a pair of loud hemp and marijuana advocates, ordered 25 pounds of sterilized Chinese hemp seed from a North Dakota distributor to use in baked goods and other hemp promotion purposes. Police seized the shipment after a drug dog alerted them to the Federal Express package. Although Drug Enforcement Administration officials told local prosecutors the seeds were legal under federal law, the local prosecutors indicted both men for marijuana possession almost a year later.

Prosecutors argued that state law banned the seeds, but defense attorneys were able to show that state laws contradicted each other. A federal district court judge agreed, ruling that the seeds were hemp product, not marijuana, and were therefore legal.

Prosecutors eventually dropped the case against Christie, but took Anderson to trial on "commercial marijuana" charges carrying a 10-year sentence. That case ended with a hung jury. Prosecutors then offered to let Anderson plea to a misdemeanor charge in return for their public promise not to prosecute any more hemp seed cases. Anderson refused, demanding a retrial on the felony charge. Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura then dropped the charges.

Then it was the hemp advocates' turn. Anderson and Christie filed lawsuits against Hawaii County in federal and state court arguing that they were unconstitutionally singled out for prosecution because of their prominent advocacy for marijuana legalization. They were able to point to incidents where prosecutors committed acts or statements reeking of selective prosecution.

According to earlier testimony, Deputy Prosecutor Kay Iopa was caught telling a judge in chambers that her office would not prosecute a little old lady with some hemp seeds, but it would have a different attitude toward "a hemp grower that is very vocally, very outwardly advocating the legalization of marijuana."

For the record, no testimony was ever presented that Anderson and Christie grew hemp.

Prosecutors also failed to prosecute businesses on the island which were selling hemp seed at the same time they were trying to send Anderson for prison for ten years for receiving hemp seed.

And during negotiations over a possible plea bargain, Deputy Prosecutor Iopa refused a settlement offer in which Anderson would promise not to sue the county. In addition to such a promise, Iopa also wanted a guarantee that "these two guys [would] stop writing letters to the newspapers about this case," according to Anderson's attorney, Steven Strauss.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Joseph Kamelamela responded in federal court in April that Iopa's insistence that Anderson write no more letters to the editor was not pressure. "There is really no evidence to show he had to forfeit his right to free speech," he said. "The basis of the prosecution was not motivated to chill his first amendment rights."

"The government abused its power," Strauss told the federal district court jury. "They did illegal and unconstitutional things for the wrong reason because they didn't like what Mr. Anderson was doing."

Anderson lost the $1 million federal civil rights case, but, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, six of the eight jurors later told Anderson they thought he had been mistreated. The narrowly drawn jury instructions, they said, prevented them from rendering a positive verdict.

The Hawaii County Council was not prepared to take another chance in court. Instead, it took the $75,000 hit. Legal expenses will take the largest hunk, $27,000, while Christie will receive $12,000 and Anderson $20,000. Anderson told local reporters he plans to use some of it to get his teeth fixed.

He also had a parting shot for lead County Prosecutor Jay Kimura, who oversaw the prosecutions. Kimura is a "constitutional pervert" for pursuing the case, Anderson declared. Kimura has made no public reply.

(Visit http://www.drcnet.org/wol/094.html#andersoncase for past DRCNet coverage of this case.)

A ten-year legal battle over hemp seed has ended on Hawaii's Big Island with the Hawaii County Council agreeing to settle a lawsuit by hemp advocates who accused county prosecutors of violating their civil rights. Aaron Anderson, 64, and Roger Christie, 52, won the award after a relentless fight that traversed Hawaii criminal and civil courts and a federal district court for years. On a 6-3 vote, the council agreed to pay out $75,000 to the plaintiffs and their lawyers to end the case.

The case began when Anderson and Christie, a pair of loud hemp and marijuana advocates, ordered 25 pounds of sterilized Chinese hemp seed from a North Dakota distributor to use in baked goods and other hemp promotion purposes. Police seized the shipment after a drug dog alerted them to the Federal Express package. Although Drug Enforcement Administration officials told local prosecutors the seeds were legal under federal law, the local prosecutors indicted both men for marijuana possession almost a year later.

Prosecutors argued that state law banned the seeds, but defense attorneys were able to show that state laws contradicted each other. A federal district court judge agreed, ruling that the seeds were hemp product, not marijuana, and were therefore legal.

Prosecutors eventually dropped the case against Christie, but took Anderson to trial on "commercial marijuana" charges carrying a 10-year sentence. That case ended with a hung jury. Prosecutors then offered to let Anderson plea to a misdemeanor charge in return for their public promise not to prosecute any more hemp seed cases. Anderson refused, demanding a retrial on the felony charge. Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura then dropped the charges.

Then it was the hemp advocates' turn. Anderson and Christie filed lawsuits against Hawaii County in federal and state court arguing that they were unconstitutionally singled out for prosecution because of their prominent advocacy for marijuana legalization. They were able to point to incidents where prosecutors committed acts or statements reeking of selective prosecution.

According to earlier testimony, Deputy Prosecutor Kay Iopa was caught telling a judge in chambers that her office would not prosecute a little old lady with some hemp seeds, but it would have a different attitude toward "a hemp grower that is very vocally, very outwardly advocating the legalization of marijuana."

For the record, no testimony was ever presented that Anderson and Christie grew hemp.

Prosecutors also failed to prosecute businesses on the island which were selling hemp seed at the same time they were trying to send Anderson for prison for ten years for receiving hemp seed.

And during negotiations over a possible plea bargain, Deputy Prosecutor Iopa refused a settlement offer in which Anderson would promise not to sue the county. In addition to such a promise, Iopa also wanted a guarantee that "these two guys [would] stop writing letters to the newspapers about this case," according to Anderson's attorney, Steven Strauss.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Joseph Kamelamela responded in federal court in April that Iopa's insistence that Anderson write no more letters to the editor was not pressure. "There is really no evidence to show he had to forfeit his right to free speech," he said. "The basis of the prosecution was not motivated to chill his first amendment rights."

"The government abused its power," Strauss told the federal district court jury. "They did illegal and unconstitutional things for the wrong reason because they didn't like what Mr. Anderson was doing."

Anderson lost the $1 million federal civil rights case, but, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, six of the eight jurors later told Anderson they thought he had been mistreated. The narrowly drawn jury instructions, they said, prevented them from rendering a positive verdict.

The Hawaii County Council was not prepared to take another chance in court. Instead, it took the $75,000 hit. Legal expenses will take the largest hunk, $27,000, while Christie will receive $12,000 and Anderson $20,000. Anderson told local reporters he plans to use some of it to get his teeth fixed.

He also had a parting shot for lead County Prosecutor Jay Kimura, who oversaw the prosecutions. Kimura is a "constitutional pervert" for pursuing the case, Anderson declared. Kimura has made no public reply.

(Visit http://www.drcnet.org/wol/094.html#andersoncase for past DRCNet coverage of this case.)

-- END --
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Issue #198, 8/10/01 Editorial: Nostalgia for the '80s | With National Drug Treatment Binge Looming, Survivors Conference in Suburban DC Targets Abusive Programs | Court Ruling Brings New York City Needle Exchange Suit a Step Closer to Class Action Status | Two Steps Backward, No Steps Forward in Illinois: No to Hemp, Yes to Draconian Ecstasy Penalties | Canadian Health Minister Has "Open Mind" on Marijuana Legalization | Reams Reeferendum Underway in Virginia, Libertarian Candidate Enters Lt. Governor Race to Push Marijuana Reform | Hawaii Pays Hemp Advocates $75,000 in Persecution Settlement | Reformer Profile: Ethan Nadelmann | T-shirts for Victory! Special New Offer and Appeal from DRCNet This Month | Media Scan: Major Dan Forbes/Salon.com Scoop, National Review, OC Register, Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Economist | Resources: Andean Regional Initiative, Salvia Divinorum, Australian National Crime Authority | Action Alerts: Ecstasy Bill, HEA, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, John Walters | HEA Campaign Still Seeking Student Victim Cases -- New York Metropolitan Area Especially Urgent | The Reformer's Calendar
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