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Federal Agents Seize Hemp Plants

Posted on August 26, 2000

Sioux Falls, South Dakota — Federal agents seized at least 2,000 marijuana plants Thursday from land on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, U.S. Attorney Ted McBride said Friday.

But the landowner, Alex White Plume, called them industrial-grade hemp plants and said the Oglala Sioux Tribe allowed him to grow the crop. He said agents from the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration removed 4,000 hemp plants, some as tall as 15 feet, that he had planted in April.

The raid was a surprise, White Plume said.

No arrests were made Thursday. But White Plume said McBride advised him to seek legal help.

“The reason this was done is, we eradicate marijuana,” McBride said in an interview.

“There are provisions in federal law to get DEA permits to cultivate marijuana. There was no permit in this case.”

There’s no legal justification for White Plume’s crop, the prosecutor said. Federal law makes no distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana, and there are no special DEA permits assigned for South Dakota, he said.

A conviction for growing marijuana without a permit will land people in prison for at least 10 years, with a maximum sentence of life behind bars, McBride said.

Because hemp belongs to the same family as marijuana, it has been illegal to grow in the United States since World War II.

Marijuana normally contains 3 percent to 15 percent or more of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannibol, or THC, while hemp has 1 percent or less.

McBride said a case in New Hampshire attempted to create a distinction based on THC but that a federal appeals court rejected the argument. If every political entity had the power to decide what constitutes hemp, some could set the THC level higher, he said.

“It’s a slippery slope,” McBride said.

Hemp stalk fibers can be used to make clothing, shoes, building materials, strong cords and ropes, a substitute for fiberglass, paper and other products.

Federal officials have said that permitting hemp farming would send the wrong signal to young people and would allow marijuana farmers to hide their crops with industrial hemp plants.

Note from CO-HIP: Below is an April press release from Oglala Sioux tribe members in advance of their Spring planting. The hemp the tribe members were cultivating is the first native North American variety of industrial hemp to be cultivated in the U.S. in over 40 years. The leaves of the this industrial hemp variety (which CO-HIP will call “Cannabis lakota”) tested at LESS THAN 0.01% THC and 2.6% CBD. “Marijuana” sold on the streets typically contains 4.00% or more THC. This Cannabis lakota is truly industrial hemp. You could smoke a whole field and all you would get is a wicked headache. But the stalks grow as big around as your wrist!

The natives have been using this hemp to manufacture building materials. Photos of their hemp and the adobe bricks that were created from it can be viewed at:

Contact your federal representatives and protest this new war on Native lands. Demand that Congress force the DEA to return the industrial hemp that they seized so the natives can continue to use this material to build homes for tribal members. Demand that Congress fight to protect the sovereignty of native lands.

U.S. Senate
Phone: 202-224-3121

U. S. House of Representatives
Phone: 202-225-3121

Related articles:

Joe American Horse speaks
Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Oglala Sioux Tribe to Plant Industrial Hemp Crops
Friday, April 28, 2000

Copyright © 2000, Yankton Press and Dakotan. All rights reserved.

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