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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Hawai'i County Council agrees to settle lawsuit over hemp seed

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i — The County Council voted 6-3 yesterday to approve an out-of-court settlement with two hemp advocates who say police and prosecutors acted wrongly in filing drug charges against them after intercepting a 25-pound shipment of birdseed from China in 1992.

County attorneys had urged the council to settle the case to avoid a Circuit Court trial on a lawsuit filed by Aaron Anderson and Roger Christie. The amount of the settlement will not be disclosed until the agreement is formally signed, but it was described as less than $100,000.

Voting against the settlement were council members Leningrad Elarionoff of South Kohala and Gary Safarik of Puna, both former police officers, and Dominic Yagong of Hamakua.

Anderson, 62, and Christie, 50, said they imported the birdseed, which consisted of hemp seeds, to use in cookies and cakes to show the nutritional value of hemp. Both men said they were singled out for prosecution that excluded other Hilo hemp-seed importers, including a ranch and farm supply store and a department store.

Drug charges against Christie were dismissed in 1997.

A Big Island judge dropped the case against Anderson after a jury was unable to reach a verdict in 1998. Anderson lost his bid in April for a $1 million federal court judgment against the county for malicious prosecution, but county attorneys apparently decided not to risk a verdict in local courts.