Hemp seeds on a hemp plant. Photo: D-Kuru

St. Croix Chippewa Tribe wins agreement over hemp and state jurisdiction

The state of Wisconsin is promising not to interfere with the St. Croix Chippewa Indians as the tribe moves forward with a hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) business.

A consent decree entered in federal court on Tuesday confirms that the state lacks jurisdiction on the reservation. The agreement comes just a few months after the tribe filed a lawsuit to protect its sovereignty.

“The tribe commends state Attorney General Schimel for working with our community to resolve any confusion over the tribe’s inherent sovereign authority to adopt and implement its hemp and CBD control program,” council member Elmer J. Emery said in a press release.

The tribe developed a comprehensive set of regulations to govern hemp and CBD production last fall. The announcement drew objections from the state even though industrial hemp and CBD oil are legal under Wisconsin law, as the consent decree notes.

The disagreement prompted the tribe to head to court. The complaint, lodged in February, asserted that the state's threats of interference "will have a substantial detrimental impact on the tribe’s governmental and economic sovereignty."

But with the agreement signed and sealed, the tribe believes it is on solid legal ground.

The consent decree "settles a legal challenge filed by the tribe in U.S. district court and allows the tribe to move forward with its own regulatory program for hemp and CBD, as well as establish a tribally owned and operated hemp business,” said general counsel Jeff Cormell.

Senate Bill 10, which Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed in April 2017, updates what is known as Lydia's Law. The 2013 law was named for a young girl whose epilepsy was being treated with CBD prior to her death in 2014.

Preliminary studies have indicated that CBD can be used to treat epilepsy, according to
CNN. A patent granted to the Department of Health and Human Services cited its ability to address the effects of stroke, trauma and other diseases and conditions.

“Hemp and CBD are one of the fastest growing sectors of the burgeoning cannabis economy,” attorney Brad Bartlett of the the law firm McAllister Garfield, which represented the tribe in the lawsuit. “This landmark agreement ensures that the tribe has parity in treatment with states when it comes to participating in the nation’s new cannabis economy.”

The tribe held two meetings in January to discuss hemp and CBD. Plans call for hemp to be grown using genetic clones of the plant. Marijuana will not be grown on the reservation, according to the tribe.

The CBD oil operation is expected to be housed in a decommissioned 200,000 square-foot building that once housed a fish hatchery. Details on the hemp grow are still in the works.

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