Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe cannabis trial opens in South Dakota






An aerial view of Flandreau, South Dakota, shows the area where the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe attempted to open a marijuana resort, in the buildings in the foreground. The Royal River Casino, the tribe's gaming facility, is seen in the background. Image: Google Earth

A consultant who worked with the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe on a failed marijuana operation is going to trial in South Dakota.

Jury selection begins on Thursday in the case against Eric Matthew Hagen, the Associated Press reported. He is charged with conspiracy to possess, possession and attempted possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana.

The alleged crimes occurred on the tribe's reservation. But since Hagen is non-Indian, the state has asserted jurisdiction over his activities.

“This is a one-of-a-kind prosecution,” Tim Purdon, a former U.S. attorney for North Dakota and an expert on hemp and marijuana issues in Indian Country, told the AP. “That doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. It’s just, this is truly groundbreaking.”

The indictment against Hagen and a second person connected to the operation was announced last August. The second defendant, Jonathan Hunt, pleaded guilty to a charge of drug conspiracy and has been helping prosecutors, the AP said.

Opening statements and testimony are scheduled to begin on Monday. The state subpoenaed a reporter for The Sioux Falls Argus Leader who covered the marijuana operation but withdrew the request on Monday, the paper said.

No one else connected to the operation has been indicted in state or federal court. The tribe suspended plans for a marijuana resort on the reservation and burned all of its crops out of fear of being raided by federal authorities.

“It’s unfortunate that we were unable to be successful with the project,” President Anthony Reider told the AP. “We were hoping with the revenues to do a lot of positive things for the tribe and the local community.”

Read More on the Story:
Native American tribe’s cannabis consultant to face trial (AP 5/17)
AG drops subpoena for Argus Leader reporter (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 5/15)
Argus Leader reporter subpoenaed in tribal marijuana case (AP 5/15)
State prosecutor orders reporter to testify in Flandreau marijuana case (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 5/13)

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Non-Indians enter pleas in Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe marijuana case (August 16, 2016)
Charges filed in Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe marijuana operation (August 3, 2016)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe refutes claims about marijuana crop (April 20, 2016)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe still pushing for marijuana resort (February 17, 2016)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe won't give up plan for marijuana (November 20, 2015)
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