Menominee Nation slams DEA raid of industrial hemp operation

A view of the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin. Photo from Rewriting Amanda

The Menominee Nation of Wisconsin criticized the Drug Enforcement Agency for carrying out a raid of its industrial hemp crop.

Chairman Gary Besaw said the tribe was legally cultivating the plant under the 2014 Farm Bill. A provision allows colleges to grow hemp for research purposes.

"I am deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has made the decision to utilize the full force of the DEA to raid our tribe," Besaw said in a press release. "We were attempting to grow industrial hemp for research purposes in accordance with the farm bill. 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."

Federal authorities, however, said marijuana, a close relative of hemp, was being grown on the reservation. Over 30,000 marijuana plants were found in the raid on Friday, according to news reports.

“The investigation into the marijuana fields revealed that individuals other than Menominee Tribe Members planted and were tending to the marijuana plants located on tribal land,” a special agent with the DEA told the Associated Press.

Tim Purdon, a former U.S. Attorney for North Dakota, is representing the tribe. He acknowledged a disagreement with the Department of Justice over the application of the Farm Bill to the College of the Menominee Nation.

But he said his former bosses were ignoring marijuana policies set by the Cole memo and the Wilkinson memo. The Cole memo recognized that some states have legalized marijuana and the Wilkinson memo extended the policy to Indian Country, clearing a path for tribes that have legalized marijuana or hemp.

"The waste of resources is exacerbated by the fact that the tribe had agreed to act itself to destroy individual strains of the hemp crop that the tribe and the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed were problematic," Purdon said. "This misallocation of federal resources is exactly what the Cole and Wilkinson Memos were designed to prevent.”

H.R.2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, became law in February 2014. Section 7606 established a pilot program for colleges and state agencies to grow industrial hemp for research purposes.

The program was intended to apply to states where hemp is already legal. Wisconsin isn't one of them but the state does not have jurisdiction over the Menominee Reservation.

“What makes the actions taken today even more difficult to understand is that the federal government is very aware of the great unmet needs of Menominee," Chairman Besaw said on Friday. "Menominee County ranks at the bottom of the state in poverty and health statistics. The tribe is trying to meet these needs by researching the potential economic opportunities of industrial hemp just as Congress intended when passing the Farm Bill.”

Get the Story:
DEA Releases Statement About Destroying Menominee Tribe Hemp Crop (CBS 58 10/25)
Menominee Tribe's Hemp Crop Destroyed by DEA Agents (CBS 58 10/24)
Undercover officers, drug agents descend on Menominee County (WBAY 10/23)
Agents seize marijuana plants on Menominee tribal land (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 10/23)
DEA raids tribal land to destroy pot; tribe says it was hemp (AP 10/23)
DEA says marijuana, not hemp, taken from Menominee tribal land (Fox 11 10/23)

Relevant Documents:
Department of Justice Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country (October 2014)

Related Stories
Menominee Nation supports marijuana in advisory referendum (08/21)
Menominee Nation prepares for referendum on legal marijuana (08/17)
Menominee Nation schedules referendum on legal marijuana (07/14)

Join the Conversation