Menominee Nation asserts right to grow hemp in new lawsuit

The College of the Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin. Photo from Facebook

The Menominee Nation of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration on Wednesday, asserting the right to grow hemp on the reservation.

The tribe is seeking to be treated as a state when it comes to hemp. The lawsuit notes that the 2014 Farm Bill allows higher-education institutions to grow the plant in states where it is legal.

The College of the Menominee Nation was doing just that under the tribe's laws, which allow hemp. But the Drug Enforcement Agency raided the reservation on October 23, destroying all of the crops in the process.

"The Menominee Tribe, in cooperation with the College of Menominee Nation, should have the right under the Farm Bill to cultivate industrial hemp in the same manner as Kentucky, Colorado, and other states," Chairman Gary Besaw said in a press release. "These and other states cultivate industrial hemp without threats or interference from the United States government."

"In contrast, when our tribe attempted to cultivate industrial hemp we were subjected to armed federal agents who came to our Reservation and destroyed our crop," Besaw said.

The tribe allowed the DEA and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to inspect the operation on October 19, according to documents filed in federal court. Some samples were taken and were tested for tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical compound that differentiates marijuana from its harmless relative hemp.

According to the tribe's lawsuit, which names the DEA and the Department of Justice as defendants, none of the THC levels in the samples tested above 0.3 percent. Marijuana typically contains THC levels of at least 5 percent.

“This is the first step in a longer process. We are still reviewing all of Menominee’s options related to the destruction of the Tribe’s industrial hemp crop," Besaw said. "It is important, however, to first make clear to the federal government that tribes must be treated fairly and equally under Justice Department policies and federal law."

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

Related Stories
Hilary Bricken: DOJ sending mixed signals on tribal marijuana (11/17)
BIA looked for hemp while Menominee Nation chair was at NCAI (10/27)
Menominee Nation slams DEA raid of industrial hemp operation (10/26)
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