U.S. moves to stop Oglala Lakota hemp farm
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A federal judge on Tuesday ordered an Oglala Lakota family to stop planting and harvesting hemp on their South Dakota ranch after tests showed traces of marijuana and cocaine.

U.S. District Judge Richard Battey granted a temporary restraining order against Alex White Plume and his family. The White Plumes have come to national prominence for asserting a sovereign right to grow hemp on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Law enforcement authorities don't see it that way. During a pre-dawn raid in August 2000, about 25 armed agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Marshals Service and the Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Task Force stormed the reservation and seized more than 5,000 plants.

No criminal charges were ever filed and the White Plumes, who have made no secret of their hemp farm, began planting again. Crops were destroyed in 2001 but the family wasn't deterred. After a planting this past spring, the U.S. Attorney's office in South Dakota charged the family and others last week with manufacturing and distributing marijuana.

The suit came after Special Agent J.C. Salley of the DEA collected at least 400 grams of plants from the White Plume farm in July. The sample was sent to a DEA testing facility in Chicago, where traces of marijuana and cocaine were detected, according to a court records.

The dispute here is one of scientific and legal debate. Hemp and its illicit cousin marijuana both contain an active ingredient called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

In marijuana, a certain amount of THC gives users a characteristic "high." Hemp doesn't do that.

Recognizing the difference, the Oglala Lakota Tribe in 1998 passed a law that legalizes hemp, which can be used for a number of purposes. The most significant use on the cash-strapped and equity-poor reservation is for homes.

"The people used to have the buffalo for our food, clothing and shelter," said former President Joe American Horse at the planting of hemp seeds in April 2000, on the 132nd anniversary of the Sioux Nation Treaty of 1868. "Now, hemp can do that for us."

Federal law doesn't differentiate, however, and the U.S. considers hemp to be in the same category as marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. "The provisions of the Act are general federal laws concerning the manufacture, possession and distribution of controlled substances which apply on the Pine Ridge Reservation with the same force as the laws apply elsewhere," the U.S. Attorney's office wrote in an August 9 court document.

Attorneys for the White Plumes did not file court documents in response to the federal action. After a hearing on Tuesday, Judge Battey immediately granted the temporary restraining order pending a full hearing scheduled for October 1 and October 2.

The judge was acting quickly based on a sale of hemp the White Plume negotiated with a Kentucky company. The Madison Hemp and Flax Company was to pick up the supply yesterday.

The U.S. Attorney wants a permanent injunction against the White Plumes.

Recent Court Pleadings:
Temporary Restraining Order (8/13) | J.C. Salley Declaration / Drug Test (8/13) | J.C. Salley Declaration (8/9) | U.S. v. White Plume Complaint (8/9) | U.S. v. White Plume Memo (8/9) | U.S. v. White Plume Motion (8/9)

Recent Story:
Hemp planters hope 3rd time's a charm (The Rapid City Journal April 6, 2002)

Related Stories:
Editorial: Hemp may not help (12/12)
S.D. farmers support hemp (12/4)
Neb. hemp bill stalled (5/24)
Supreme Court says no to pot distribution (5/15)
Neb. hemp bill gains support (2/2)
US criticized for hemp raid (9/6)