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The recent Recent DEA raid on the Menominee Native American Tribe calls Tribal Sovereignty into question. On Oct. 23rd DEA agents raided the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and destroyed the tribes industrial hemp crop.

The DEA raid on the tribe and destruction of its hemp crop are egregious violations of orders given to all United States Attorneys and Tribal Liaisons the on Oct. 28th 2014 in a memo from the U.S. Department of Justice. This memorandum clearly orders the Federal Government to not interfere with tribes involved in cultivation of marijuana or hemp granted that they follow the following eight conditions:

  • Prevent the distribution of marijuana to minors
  • Prevent the revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels
  • Prevent the diversion of marijuana to states where it is illegal
  • Prevent state authorized marijuana activity from being used as cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or activity
  • Prevent violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • Prevent Drugged Driving
  • Prevent growing marijuana on public lands and the environmental dangers that attend it
  • Prevent marijuana possession and use on Federal Property.

The DEA decided to raid the Menominee Tribe despite the fact they abiding by all the conditions set forth for marijuana. Menominee Chairman Gary Besaw made it clear in a press release that the tribe wasn’t even growing marijuana, it was growing hemp. “It is important for our Tribal members to know that there is a big difference between Industrial Hemp and marijuana. The Industrial Hemp crop the Tribe was researching has no psychoactive effect. It can’t get you high. If someone tried to smoke those plants the only result would be a cough.”

Even if the Menominee Tribe was growing marijuana they should still have been protected from federal interference, but the fact they were growing hemp offers them protection above and beyond the U.S. Department of Justice memo by way of Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill which authorizes institutions of higher education or state department’s of agriculture in states that legalized hemp cultivation to conduct research and pilot programs. The Menominee tribe legalized growing industrial hemp in cooperation with the College of the Menominee Nation, which put it under the protection the 2014 Farm Bill.

Dean Puschnig the US District Attorney who signed the search warrant authorizing the DEA to raid the Menominee Tribe and destroy their Industrial Hemp crop refused to comment upon the case when contacted.

Distrust and animosity towards the Federal Government will grow if the DEA continues to interfere and harass tribes whose best intentions are to abide by the rules.   Many Indian Tribes considered the US Justice Department memorandum to provide valid protection from federal interference and invested into hemp and marijuana. One such tribe is the Santee Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. The Santee Sioux are scheduled to open the first marijuana themed resort in the U.S. on New Years Eve and are currently cultivating marijuana on their reservation to supply the resort. The Santee Sioux along with other tribes who have invested into the marijuana industry must have their fingers crossed, as they seem to face an uncertain future in which all their investments can be destroyed at the whim of the DEA.

The raid on the Menominee Tribe shows the need for the federal government to dispel its ambiguous prosecution practices of protected tribes and five peace of mind to current and future investors of the Native American Marijuana Industry.

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