Pubdate: Wed, 17 May 2006
Source: Grand Island Independent (NE)
Copyright: 2006 Grand Island Independent
Author: Carson Walker,  Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Hemp)


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- An American Indian treaty and United States law 
do not allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp on the Pine Ridge 
Indian Reservation, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Alex White Plume, vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and 
members of his family planted hemp on their property but it was cut 
down and confiscated by federal agents. Industrial hemp is related to 
marijuana and is used to make rope and other products. It has only a 
trace of the drug in marijuana, but it is illegal to grow hemp in the 
United States.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it empathized with the 
White Plumes but concluded their enterprise was illegal. "We are not 
unmindful of the challenges faced by members of the Tribe to engage 
in sustainable farming on federal trust lands ... And we do not doubt 
that there are a countless number of beneficial products which 
utilize hemp in some fashion. Nor do we ignore the burdens imposed by 
a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) registration necessary to grow hemp 
legally," justices wrote. "But these are policy arguments better 
suited for the congressional hearing room than the courtroom."

During oral arguments in December in St. Louis, the White Plumes' 
lawyer asked the appeals court to return the matter to a lower court 
to consider the legality of their crop. The family tried three times 
to grow industrial hemp on Pine Ridge reservation land from 2000 to 
2002, only to have the federal government seize and destroy the 
plants. A judge ordered the White Plumes to stop the plantings but 
they were never charged in criminal court.

The family could have applied to the DEA for permission to grow the 
crop, but without that authorization the crop could not be allowed, 
argued Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Salter. "The court should be 
commended for fulfilling its constitutional role by interpreting an 
ambiguous law of Congress," he said Wednesday.

The White Plumes' lawyer, Bruce Ellison of Rapid City, argued the 
family was not growing a drug so it didn't need to apply to the 
federal government for permission. Ellison said he knew of no 
instance when the DEA granted a commercial hemp farming permit. And 
he said by treaty and tribal law, the White Plumes had the right to 
grow hemp without a DEA permit.

The appeals court disagreed, saying the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 
set a number of provisions to encourage Indian farming but does not 
address hemp farming. White Plume and Ellison could not be reached 
for comment.

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