Menominee tribe files lawsuit over hemp raid

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

Less than a month after its land was raided, the Menominee Indian Tribe has filed a lawsuit against the DEA and Department of Justice.

The tribe wants to clarify whether it's legal for it to grow industrial hemp on its reservation, which the tribe considers to be equal to a state.

"We still stand firm on that belief that, yes, we fit the guidelines," said Gary Besaw, the Menominee Indian Tribal Chairman.

The guidelines Besaw is talking about are those in the 2014 Farm Bill. Besaw says the bill allows his tribe to team with the College of Menominee Nation to grow and research industrial hemp.

"It fits within our ethics and our values," said Besaw.

The DEA has said the tribe wasn't growing industrial hemp. After the October 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.

"We would like to see how good of an impact we can have on our economy here," said Besaw.

The tribe's lawsuit would only clarify whether it is legal for it to grow hemp.

In an e-mail, a DEA spokesperson told FOX 11, as a matter of policy, the DEA does not comment on active litigation.

While the lawsuit says the court can address any appropriate relief, the tribe does not specifically ask for financial compensation for the raid.

"Depending on the determination, and we think it will be positive, then we'll judge that, we'll weigh it from there," said Besaw.

The tribe hopes to have a decision by spring, in hopes of possibly starting another hemp crop.

The federal agencies involved in the raid have not commented. At the time, Drug Enforcement Administration officials would say only that the investigation is ongoing.

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