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Feds raid Menominee rez: dope or rope?

Posted on October 25th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

leafDEA agents raided the reservation of  Wisconsin's Menominee Indian Tribe on Oct. 23—destroying what federal authorities say was a crop of illegal marijuana, and what tribal authorities say was a field of industrial hemp. Acting US Attorney Gregory Haanstad says agents executed a search warrant and seized about 30,000 marijuana plants weighing several thousand pounds. But tribal chairman Gary Besaw flatly contradicted this. According to Milwaukee's CBS 58, he said in a statement: "I am deeply disappointed that Obama administration has made the decision to utilize the full force of the DEA to raid our Tribe. We were attempting to grow industrial hemp for research purposes in accordance with the farm bill."

Besaw accused the White House of bad faith: "We offered to take any differences in the interpretation of the farm bill to federal court. Instead, the Obama administration sent agents to destroy our crop while allowing recreational marijuana in Colorado. I just wish the President would explain to tribes why we can't grow industrial hemp like states, and even more importantly, why we don't deserve an opportunity to make our argument to a federal judge rather than having our community raided by the DEA?"

In May of this year, the Menominee tribe legalized cultivation of low-THC hemp by tribal licenses on its land, citing text in the 2014 federal Farm Bill that created an exemption to the Controlled Substance Act, allowing for hemp cultivationfor research purposes. 

According to the statement, the tribe had engaged in numerous face-to-face consultations on its intnetion to grow hemp under the Farm Bill with former US Attorney Jim Santelle and current acting US Attorney Haanstad—as well as with Bureau of Indian Affairs agents. "What makes the actions taken today even more difficult is that the federal government is very aware of the great unmet needs of the Menominee," said Besaw. "Menominee County ranks at the bottom of the state in poverty and health statistics. The Tribe is trying to meet those needs by researching the potential economic opportunities of industrial hemp just as Congress intended when passing the Farm Bill."

Once again, the operative issue appears to be tribal sovereignty. Industrial hemp crops are currently being grown in Kentucky, Colorado and a handful of other states in compliance with the Farm Bill. But the bill stipulates that the exemption from federal law only applies in states that permit industrial hemp cultivation. As the Vote Hemp website informs us, this does not include Wisconsin. The Menominee are arguing that they should be afforded the same respect as a soveriegn entity enjoyed by the 50 states, with their right to grow hemp under terms of the Farm Bill recognized. The federal contention that the crop was marijuana rather than hemp seems to be more a matter of politics than THC content.

Cross-post to High Times

Image: Jurist

 

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