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S.D. family seeks the right to grow hemp

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2005 11:51 pm    Post subject: S.D. family seeks the right to grow hemp Reply with quote

S.D. family seeks the right to grow hemp

By Betsy Taylor -- Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Members of a family say they were growing hemp, not marijuana, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and asked federal appeals judges on Dec. 12 to return the matter to a lower court to consider the legality of their crop.

The White Plume tiospaye tried three times to grow an industrial hemp crop on Oglala Sioux reservation land from 2000 to 2002, only to have the plants seized and destroyed by the federal government. The family was later ordered by a judge to halt the plantings permanently.

''Our contention is we're not growing a drug; and since we're not growing a drug, we don't need to apply to the government for permission,'' said lawyer Bruce Ellison, who represents brothers Alex and Percy White Plume.

A lawyer for the government said the family could have applied to the Drug Enforcement Agency to seek permission to grow the crop. Without that permission, the plantings could not be allowed, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Salter.

''Until and unless someone changes the definition of marijuana, it's marijuana,'' Salter said. The White Plumes have not been criminally charged.

Ellison said hemp and marijuana are two different varieties of the same plant. The hemp planted by the White Plume tiospaye had less than 1 percent of the psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, court records said. Marijuana usually has THC levels of 5 percent or higher, according to those records.

Telling the judges he used hemp soap and shampoo during his morning shower and wrote on paper made from hemp fibers, Ellison argued that oil and fibers from industrial hemp plantings could provide a significant source of income to subsistence farmers on the reservation. Such products, made with imported hemp, are legal in the United States.

A lawyer representing Delaware-based Tierra Madre and the Kentucky-based Madison Hemp and Flax Co. said the White Plumes' hemp was part of a project to grow and process hemp on the reservation to create building materials for a structure for a tribal elder.

Attorney David Frankel said the government likely would have required barbed-wire fences, sensors and a safe to hold the seeds if the White Plumes had sought a permit. ''While there is a process technically, in this case, it's to no avail,'' he said.

Ellison said he knew of no instance where the DEA granted a commercial hemp farming permit. And he said by treaty and tribal law, the White Plumes had the right to grow hemp without a DEA permit.

Not so, according to Salter, who said the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 set a number of provisions to encourage American Indian farming but does not speak to the growing of hemp.

''Nowhere in there does it say signatory tribes have the right to grow whatever they want on that land,'' Salter said.

After the hearing, Alex and Percy's younger sister, Ramona, 44, said the family planted the crop for use in products like paper. She didn't think industrial hemp plantings would open the door to make it easier to plant marijuana, saying any plant's THC levels could be tested to make sure the plant was hemp rather than marijuana.

''We want to create jobs for our youth, and a better future for them,'' she said.

The judges did not set a date for their ruling, and it can be several weeks to months before their determination is made.



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