Jonathan Adler, at his Puna home in January, was convicted yesterday of commercial promotion of marijuana.

Big Isle governor candidate
guilty on marijuana charges

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> Jonathan Adler, religious marijuana user and Natural Law Party candidate for governor, has been found guilty of commercial promotion of marijuana.

Adler, 50, was charged with possessing 89 marijuana plants and marijuana paraphernalia in 1998. Adler contended that religious freedom under the Constitution allows him to use marijuana.

In handing down a written verdict yesterday, Judge Greg Nakamura noted that Adler is a reverend in the Religion of Jesus Church and that Adler sincerely believes in the church.

Nakamura also noted that the church requires its believers to use marijuana at least once a year, usually on Aug. 21, which they believe to be the true birthday of Jesus.

But Nakamura said Adler had provided no evidence during a one-day, nonjury trial in January that the church requires Adler to engage in commercial promotion of marijuana. Possession of more than 50 marijuana plants is considered evidence of a commercial activity.

The state has a "compelling interest" in controlling commercial marijuana, Nakamura ruled.

Nakamura made no ruling on simple possession of small quantities of marijuana for religious use, since that was not an issue in Adler's case. The state has not established any amount of marijuana which might be permitted for religious use.

Adler has a state medical marijuana card, which allows him to have up to seven marijuana plants for medical use. Adler says he uses marijuana to treat his asthma.

The judge set sentencing for Aug. 26 and required Adler to report to the local probation office by Friday.

A jury trial of Adler on the same charges last year ended with a hung jury.

Adler still faces separate charges related to allegedly possessing 55 marijuana plants in 1999.

Adler filed nomination papers April 1 to run for governor as a candidate for the Natural Law Party. He previously had sought to run as a member of the Green Party, but was rejected by party leadership.

"When he is sentenced for that felony crime, he cannot run" for office under state law, said Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the state Office of Elections. "Our office will be monitoring the situation."

Neither Adler, nor his Natural Law running mate, lieutenant governor candidate Daniel Morimoto, could be reached for comment.

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