The Menominee Nation today released a statement indicating they had filed a federal lawsuit (Complaint) against U.S. Dept. of Justice (US DOJ) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) over the recent destruction of the tribe’s hemp crop a month after federal agents seized about 30,000 marijuana plants from the tribe’s reservation near Shawano.. The federal suit filed in U.S. District Court in Green Bay.
(Keshena, WI) – The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit for declaratory judgment today against the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) seeking a judicial determination that Menominee has the right to cultivate industrial hemp pursuant to the Agricultural Act of 2014 (“Farm Bill”). Menominee filed its lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin – Green Bay Division.
Menominee Chairman Gary Besaw stated: “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. 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.”
Chairman Besaw added:
“This is the first step in a longer process. We are still reviewing all of Menominee’s options related to the destruction of the Tribe’s industrial hemp crop. 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. 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.”
Members of several other Wisconsin tribes have voted to approve plans to legalize recreational and medical marijuana this year besides the Menominee, including the Sokaogon Mole Lake and Red Cliff Bands of the Chippewa and the Ho-Chunk tribes.