The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin has filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) over its rights to grow industrial hemp.
The suit was triggered by the recent actions of the DEA, which destroyed the Tribe’s industrial hemp crop last month.
The legal action seeks a judicial determination that the Menominee are within their legal rights to cultivate industrial hemp under the Agricultural Act of 2014 (“Farm Bill”), which enables cultivation for limited purposes and under strict conditions. Industrial hemp has very low levels of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The Tribe says it simply wants to cultivate industrial hemp in the same way as is being legally carried out in other states.
” 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,” said Menominee Chairman Gary Besaw .
” The Department of Justice should recognize the equality of Tribes under the Farm Bill, and provide us with the same respect they have demonstrated to states growing industrial hemp for research purposes.”
The Menominee had been holding discussions regarding its farming of industrial hemp with federal officials for months leading up to the raid. While it was no secret there were points of contention between it and Acting U.S. Attorney Greg Haanstad, the raid reportedly occurred without warning.
Chairman Besaw says the Tribe and its lawyers are still considering all of the possible legal options regarding the destruction of their crop and that this action was just a first step.
” 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,” he said.
” I believe that fundamental fairness, as well as the rule of law, dictate that Tribes should have the same research and economic opportunities that the Department of Justice now claims are reserved for states only. ”
According to the National Congress of American Indians; more than 560 tribal nations have a formal nation-to-nation relationship with the US government and are entitled to a high degree of sovereignty – an aspect that has turned this incident into a particularly thorny issue. There’s quite a bit at stake as a number of tribal nations have expressed an interest in cultivating hemp.