KESHENA — The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin says federal agents entered tribal lands and improperly destroyed a crop of industrial hemp. Federal officials, however, say the crop was an illegal marijuana grow operation.
Acting U.S. Attorney Gregory Haanstad says agents executed a search warrant on Friday, October 23rd, and seized about 30,000 marijuana plants weighing several thousand pounds (22,840 pounds in total).
The Menominee Tribe legalized the growing of low THC industrial hemp on its lands in May.
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Whether the plants involved were industrial hemp or high-grade marijuana, Besaw says the raid should have never happened.
“We believed we were well within limits. If it was above limits, we were ready to take the appropriate action,” Besaw told WLUK.
That “limit” pertains to THC. The amount of THC in the plant distinguishes hemp from marijuana.
Industrial hemp cannot have a THC level above .3 percent, per the 2014 Farm Bill.
Besaw says the tribe has tried to work in good faith with federal authorities since it started its hemp operation in early July.
“We had an open door policy. Come see us. You can come look and test it. If we were trying anything clandestine, I don’t think that would have been a wise approach to do that,” Besaw told WLUK.
DEA officials say several of the plants that were seized were tested.
An initial test came back negative, with a second being positive, according to a search warrant. The warrant also shows federal agents found folks from Colorado working with the tribe, one advertising himself on Linked-In as a cannabis consultant.
Besaw says in July, he provided federal authorities with a list of everyone who would be involved with the hemp project.
“It’s not a secret. I’m perplexed by what happened. This doesn’t make sense to me,” Besaw said.
Besaw says the tribe plans to go to court, hoping for clarification on whether its operation was compliant under the Farm Bill.
No arrests have been made.
DEA officials have said the investigation is ongoing.