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Fisherman arrested for marijuana possession

[SN file photo]
Said he didn't know weed was illegal in American Samoa

A fisherman on board the Natalia Victoria was arrested last week after illegal drugs were allegedly found on the vessel when it docked at the main port in Fagatogo.

Christopher Reynolds is charged with attempt to import a controlled substance — a misdemeanor - and unlawful possession a controlled substance, to wit; marijuana - a class D felony.

Reynolds made his initial appearance before District Court Judge, Fiti Sunia yesterday morning. His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ryan Nelson asked for bail to be reduced to $1,000 but the court agreed with Prosecutor Woodrow Pengelly's argument, to keep the bail amount at $2,000.

The defendant is scheduled for a preliminary examination hearing this morning.

According to the court affidavit, during an inspection by Customs agents, there were suspicions that illegal drugs were on board the vessel after two pill bottles with four different types of medications were discovered.

 In addition, Customs agents also found an empty white bottle that smelled of marijuana, as well as a wooden pipe filled with a green leafy substance that appeared to be marijuana.

Once contacted, several police officers and a K-9 dog from the DPS Vice & Narcotics were at the site.

The inspection took place during the morning hours of Nov. 27th

Reynolds occupied the cabin where the bottles were discovered.

When confronted by police, the defendant said he uses the containers recovered by police to store his medicine (antibiotics).

But investigators claim the container didn't smell of antibiotics. They even handed it over to Reynolds so he could take a whiff, after which he said it did smell like marijuana.

When asked if there was any marijuana on the vessel, the defendant responded, “Yes just a little.”

Reynolds then pointed to where the marijuana was allegedly stored. He took police officers outside of the cabin, where he retrieved — and handed to police — a piece of a wooden pipe that was stuffed with a green leafy substance, which tested positive for marijuana.

The defendant, along with other members of the vessel's fishing crew, were escorted the DPS main central station for further questioning.

According to Reynolds, he didn't know marijuana is illegal in the territory, and he only uses it to ease the pain of an infected tooth.

He added that the two types of pills in the container are muscle relaxers and antibiotics he takes for the same condition.

After he asked police what the punishment for marijuana possession is in the territory, Reynolds said,  “It’s only a little bit… I won’t ever bring any here again, or ever bring it on the boat.”

When questioned by police, other crewmembers said Reynolds is new to the team and in the 29 days they spent at sea, they had no idea he was using marijuana.

Reynolds is remanded to custody until he is able to post bond.