Published November 19, 2015
KESHENA, WISCONSIN — Less than a month after federal agents improperly and unnecessarily entered the sovereign lands of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and destroyed the Tribe’s industrial hemp crop on October 23, the Tribe is suing federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice.
The Tribe filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in the United States District Court of Eastern Wisconsin that seeks to have a federal court declare the Tribe has the right to cultivate industrial hemp on its reservation under the federal Farm Bill.
“The Menominee Tribe, in cooperation with the College of Menominee Nation, should have the right under the Farm Bill to cultivate industrial hemp in the same manner as Kentucky, Colorado, and other states,” said Menominee Chairman Gary Besaw in a statement issued by the Tribe on Wednesday.
“These and other states cultivate industrial hemp without threats or interference from the United States government. 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. 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.”
Industrial hemp—which can be grown as a fiber and a seed crop—is used to produce a range of textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics, and building materials that are available throughout North America, the European Union, and Asia. Unlike marijuana, it has no psychoactive effect. Industrial hemp is currently cultivated by farmers in more than 30 countries around the world—from Australia to Canada to China. Menominee had been in discussions regarding its growth of industrial hemp with federal officials for months prior to October 23, 2015 when DEA and DOJ officials raided the Menominee Reservation and destroyed its industrial hemp crop. Brendan Johnson, Partner at Robins Kaplan LLP, former United States Attorney for South Dakota, former Chair of then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s Native American Issues Subcommittee, and an attorney representing Menominee in the action filed today stated:
“This is a straightforward legal issue. The lawsuit focuses on the specific legal question of whether the Farm Bill’s industrial hemp provisions apply to Menominee. We are confident that the provisions do apply to Menominee; that Menominee is authorized under federal law to cultivate industrial hemp consistent with those provisions; and that a federal court will read the Farm Bill provisions as we do and require the federal government to recognize Menominee’s rights under federal law to cultivate industrial hemp.”
“The cannabis laws of the State of Wisconsin have no application with in the exterior boundaries of the Menominee Reservation, and do not apply to the tribe’s effort to grow industrial hemp on its reservation,” reads a portion of the lawsuit filed on Wednesday.
The Tribe seeks costs and attorneys’ fees and “such other and further relief as the Court deems just and equitable.”