Judge dismisses Menominee Indian Tribe's lawsuit over hemp raid

    Federal agents raid a hemp grow on the Menominee Indian Reservation, Oct. 23, 2015. (WLUK/Gabrielle Mays)

    UPDATE: The Menominee Tribe released this statement Tuesday morning:

    The Tribe is disappointed with this recent setback that challenges our sovereignty as a Tribal Nation and inhibits our ability to pursue research initiatives exploring the viability of this versatile and sustainable crop. The Tribe is currently reviewing the decision to determine what options it may or may not pursue.

    GREEN BAY (WLUK) - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Menominee Indian Tribe, in which it sought a declaration its hemp-growing operation was legal.

    Click here to read the decision.

    Last November, the tribe sued the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice over an October raid which destroyed the hemp being grown on tribal land.

    The tribe said it was growing hemp for research purposes. However, after the raid, the DEA reported it confiscated 30,000 high-grade marijuana plants. The difference between marijuana and industrial hemp is THC level. Industrial hemp has a lower THC level, preventing anyone from getting a high from it. It's used in things like clothes and building materials.

    Part of the tribe's argument was that Congress allows states to grow hemp for research but the judge rejected that interpretation of the law.

    "The Court denies the for declaratory relie fto the effect that "State" as used in the hemp statute includes Indian tribes, and rejects the Tribe's theory that it acted as a "State" when it enacted its own law allowing hemp cultivation," wrote Judge William Griesbach.

    The tribe also argued it is exempt from the state's ban on growing hemp. But the judge rejected that, too.

    "Wisconsin law does not allow the growing of hemp. While Wisconsin law is not enforceable on the Menominee Reservation, that does not change the fact that the growing or cultivating of industrial hemp is not allowed under the laws of the State of Wisconsin. Because the Tribe is located in the State of Wisconsin, the hemp exception to the Controlled Substances Act does not apply to the Tribe. And having concluded that the exception does not apply in any event, it is not necessary to address the issue of whether the College of Menominee Nation is an "institution of higher education" under 5940," he added.

    FOX 11 reached out to Menominee tribe's attorney, but have not yet heard back.


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