The Menominee Indian Tribe filed a lawsuit against the federal government after the destruction of its hemp crop on tribal land in northeastern Wisconsin. (RJ Sangosti, Denver Post file)

Sorry, not in Wisconsin. Judge rejects Menominee tribe’s hemp argument

GREEN BAY, Wis. — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin over a federal raid of its industrial hemp crop grown on tribal land.

Last November, the tribe filed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice after the agencies destroyed the tribe’s hemp crop grown on its reservation in northeastern Wisconsin.

Industrial hemp has low levels of THC, the active chemical in marijuana, but it has multiple commercial uses, including its oil for health and beauty products and hemp fiber for building materials. The tribe wants to look into cultivating hemp as a way to boost its struggling economy.

Under federal law, hemp can be cultivated as part of research projects in states that have adopted laws permitting such studies.

The Department of Justice contended that the crop was illegal because Wisconsin law doesn’t permit growing hemp for any purpose. The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin argued that it was exempt from the Wisconsin law banning the crop and that it should have the right under the Farm Bill to cultivate industrial hemp in the same manner as other states, including Kentucky and Colorado.

U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ultimately decided that the exemption does not apply because the tribe is located in Wisconsin. He dismissed the tribe’s request for a pre-emptive ruling that its industrial hemp crop was being legally grown and federal agents could not seize it.

Federal agents in October seized about 30,000 marijuana plants from the tribe’s reservation near Shawano.