Pubdate: Thu, 04 Aug 2016
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Authors: Regina Garcia Cano and James Nord, Associated Press


Prosecutor Says Action Should Serve As Warning to Tribe

FLANDREAU, S.D. - South Dakota's top prosecutor charged two 
consultants who worked with a Native American tribe on its plans to 
open the nation's first marijuana resort with drug offenses, accusing 
them of having seeds shipped from the Netherlands hidden in CD cases 
and sewn into clothing.

The charges announced Wednesday come eight months after the Flandreau 
Santee Sioux destroyed their crop amid fears of a federal raid, 
abandoning an ambitious scheme to develop "an adult playground" that 
they estimated could net as much as $2 million a month in profits. 
Tribal leaders this week said they don't plan to revisit the 
proposal, and instead will use their greenhouse to grow vegetables, 
including tomatoes. The tribe declined immediate comment on the 
charges against the consultants.

Attorney General Marty Jackley, who warned against the tribe's 
proposal from the start, said that a range of marijuana possession 
charges had been brought against two top officials of Monarch 
America, the Colorado-based company hired to work with the tribe on 
the resort idea.

Eric Hagen, Monarch's chief executive, was charged by indictment with 
conspiracy to possess, possession and attempt to possess more than 10 
pounds of marijuana. Jonathan Hunt, the vice president and 
cultivation expert, was charged with conspiracy to possess between a 
half-pound and a pound of marijuana.

Hagen, 34, of Sioux Falls, declined to comment. Hunt, 43, of Denver, 
Colorado, didn't immediately respond to telephone messages requesting 
comment. Jackley said Hunt was expected to plead guilty Aug. 15.

Court documents say Hunt ordered marijuana seeds from a company in 
the Netherlands that were put in CD cases and sewn into shirts and 
shipped surreptitiously to the tribe's office in 2015. Authorities 
say Hunt and others cultivated the plants at the Flandreau grow 
facility before they were burned in batches - about 600 plants in all.

"It is very clearly a violation of both federal and state law what 
was proposed and what was happening," Jackley said.

Jackley portrayed the tribe as a victim. Moody County State's 
Attorney Paul Lewis also took pains to say the charges were "not an 
indictment against the members of the Flandreau Santee Sioux."

But Lewis also added the charges are "a clarion call" to the tribe 
"to reconsider their efforts to move forward on an adult playground 
for marijuana ingestion and consumption."

A court affidavit says the tribe still had unused marijuana seeds 
after their crop was destroyed. Jackley said he hoped the tribe would 
turn them over to law enforcement.

The Santee Sioux began exploring a marijuana growing operation after 
the Justice Department in 2014 outlined a new policy clearing the way 
for Indian tribes to grow and sell marijuana under the same 
conditions as some states that have legalized pot. When tribal 
leaders initially touted their plan to open the resort on tribal land 
in Flandreau, which is about 45 miles north of Sioux Falls, President 
Anthony Reider said they wanted it to be "an adult playground."

They projected as much as $2 million in monthly profits, with 
ambitious plans that included a smoking lounge with a nightclub, bar 
and food service, and eventually an outdoor music venue. They planned 
to use the money for community services and to provide income to 
tribal members.

Jackley warned against the idea from the outset, saying that changes 
in tribal law to permit the operation wouldn't protect non-tribal members.

Federal officials had concerns, too, that Reider said were about 
whether the tribe can sell marijuana to non-Indians, along with the 
origin of the seeds used for its crop. After the tribe destroyed its 
crop in November, he said they wanted to demonstrate good faith in 
trying to resolve concerns about the project.

Many tribes have hesitated to move into marijuana cultivation, in 
part because of uncertainty over the risks involved due to a tangle 
of state, federal and tribal law enforcement oversight on 
reservations. Just a few months before the Santee Sioux burned their 
crop, two California tribes had their growing operation raided by 
federal authorities who cited concerns about third-party ownership 
and pot distribution off tribal land.

"This adds additional weight to the notion that tribes that are 
within states who are still not warmed up to the idea of medical 
marijuana or recreational marijuana are going to have a very 
difficult time moving those projects ahead," said Blake Trueblood, an 
attorney at a Florida-based economic development and Indian law firm.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom