Pubdate: Mon, 22 May 2006
Source: Rapid City Journal (SD)
Copyright: 2006 The Rapid City Journal
Author: Carson Walke, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Hemp)


SIOUX FALLS -- 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, who is 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,which is related to marijuana, 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 that 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.

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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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman