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Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe cannabis consultant found not guilty

A consultant who worked with the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe on a failed marijuana operation was found not guilty after a trial in South Dakota.

Eric Hagen, who is non-Indian, was accused of conspiracy to possess, possession and attempted possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana. A jury cleared him after just a couple of hours of deliberations, according to news reports.

“From the start, we did not want to see anybody get in trouble with this project,” President Anthony Reider said at a press conference on Wednesday after the verdict was announced, the Associated Press reported. Reider described the prosecution of Hagen as political, according to the reports.

Attorney General Marty Jackley, a Republican who served as a U.S. Attorney during the Bush administration, pursued the case even though there was no clear evidence that Hagen ever possessed marijuana. During the trial, Reider testified that the crops belonged to the tribe and not to any particular individual, according to news reports.

Jackley also prosecuted a second non-Indian, who pleaded guilty last year. But no one from the tribe was ever charged -- doing so likely would have raised jurisdictional and sovereignty issues.

"We have jurisdiction," Jackley told The Sioux Falls Argus Leader, referring to the case against Hagen. "That's why we had a trial."

The tribe was growing marijuana on the reservation in hopes of opening a resort where patrons could smoke, ingest and otherwise consume the drug. But all crops were destroyed in late 2015 out of fear of a raid by the federal government.

Jackley also warned non-Indians that he would charge them if they patronized the tribe's business.

During the Obama administration, the Department of Justice appeared to recognize tribal authority to grow marijuana, in a manner similar to states. So far, only a handful of tribes in Washington have succeeded in taking advantage of the policy while others faced state and federal raids.

The Trump administration has not officially rescinded the policy but Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to take a harder stance against marijuana.

At the press conference, Reider said the tribe would wait for more clarity from Washington, D.C., before reviving plans for the marijuana resort, the AP reported.

Read More on the Story:
Consultant found not guilty in Flandreau marijuana trial (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 5/24)
South Dakota jury finds consultant not guilty in pot case (AP 5/24)

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

Related Stories:
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe cannabis consultant goes on trial (May 18, 2017)
Brandon Ecoffey: Anti-Indian fighter lurks off radar in South Dakota (August 17, 2016)
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)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe feared raid of marijuana resort (November 10, 2015)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe puts hold on marijuana resort (November 9, 2015)