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Lakota Indians receive Kentcky hemp

Posted on November 28, 2000

Pine Ridge group receives Canadian hemp — via Kentucky Hemp growers in Kentucky offered to help replace hemp plants destroyed in a federal raid last August.

Rapid City, South Dakota — They can’t grow it, but they can truck it in.

A trailer full of Canadian hemp is on its way to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, courtesy of the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association and the Madison Hemp & Flax Company.

The hemp will replace thousands of plants seized by federal authorities in August from two test plots on the reservation. The crop was to be used for hemp bricks and other building materials.

“We’ve got enough (bales) to finish the house they’re working on and probably start on another one,” said Joe Hickey, executive director of the Kentucky hemp group, as crews were busy loading bales there Monday.

Hickey notes the irony in the gift. “It’s exactly the same stuff,” he said. “There’s no genetic difference between what we’re going to bring up there and what (federal agents) destroyed … which is crazy.”

The Slim Buttes Land Use Association has worked to develop industrial hemp use on the Pine Ridge reservation for several years. Members built most of a house near Slim Buttes, using “hempcrete” blocks made from Canadian hemp.

Last spring, they planted two test plots of industrial hemp at Pine Ridge. On Aug. 24, just before the harvest, federal agents confiscated 3,782 plants in Alex White Plume’s 1.5-acre plot, plus the plants in a second plot near Slim Buttes.

While Oglala Sioux Tribal law allows hemp plants with less than 1 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the substance in marijuana that gives users a “high”), the federal government does not.

Despite the fact that the US government encouraged farmers to grow hemp during World War II, federal officials say the law does not distinguish between marijuana, which is smoked to get high, and hemp, which can be used to make paper, fabric, rope, building materials and other items.

For possessing 1,000 or more plants, punishment upon conviction in the federal system is 10 years to life in prison. No one has been arrested in connection with the hemp raid, but authorities said in August they expected grand jury indictments.

White Plume said federal officials told him they weren’t making any arrests because they “didn’t want to get into a political controversy” over sovereignty and other issues.

Mark Vargo, who is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s office, could not be reached Monday. Meanwhile, the Kentucky hemp growers and Madison Hemp & Flax Company offered to replace part of the hemp destroyed in the raid. The Slim Buttes Land Use Association accepted.

“Essentially, we are picking up exactly the same material destroyed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. That’s absurd,” said Tom Cook, project coordinator for the land use group. “We aren’t going to let their foolishness stop our program.”

Former Kentucky Governor Louie B. Nunn will formally present Slim Buttes Project Spokesman Joe American Horse with the hemp at the Kentucky State Capitol rotunda today. Nunn will then travel back to Pine Ridge with the group, which expects to arrive here on Friday.

Nunn called the trip “an effort to educate the public” about the benefits of hemp, and also to show that people need to work together to develop a better agricultural and economic future for all people.

The Kentucky group isn’t building with hemp. “We’re not quite as inventive as these guys (from Pine Ridge) are,” Hickey said. “We’re using hemp for horse bedding for the thoroughbred horse industry here.” He said hemp is more absorbent and produces less dust than straw, which is commonly used in horse stalls. “They won’t eat this like they’ll eat the straw, too.”

Copyright © 2000, The Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved.