Menominee Indian Tribe News

(Keshena, WI) –Earlier this week the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin released a copy of the Search and Seizure Warrant (“Warrant”) that provided the legal basis for the federal government’s destruction of the Tribe’s industrial hemp crop on Friday, October 23, 2015. Nowhere in the Warrant, or in the affidavit supporting the Warrant is there any allegation that the crop was anything other than industrial hemp. Pursuant to Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill (“Farm Bill”) and Tribal law, strains of cannabis with a THC content below 0.3% are defined as industrial hemp, not marijuana.

In response to the release of the Warrant, Chairman Besaw said:
“It is important for our Tribal members to know that there is a big difference between Industrial Hemp and marijuana. The Industrial Hemp crop the Tribe was researching has no psychoactive effect. It can’t get you high. If someone tried to smoke those plants the only result would be a cough.

In addition, Chairman Besaw stated:
“We had discussions with the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin about providing additional information to our Tribal members about our industrial hemp crop. The United States Attorney’s office asked us not to make a public announcement until the Department of Justice had finalized their position on this issue. Out of respect for the Department of Justice and based on a working relationship with the United States Attorney’s office that to date had been positive during the Obama administration, the Tribe refrained from making public statements about the industrial hemp crop. We now feel an obligation to provide additional facts and context to our Tribal members because certain implications drawn from the government’s Search Warrant affidavit are simply incorrect. More specifically, that implication that the Tribe ever intended to grow anything other than industrial hemp, and that Tribal leadership had ever been anything less than fully cooperative with the Department of Justice, is simply wrong.”

The Warrant references a concern that the THC level in some of the industrial hemp plants may have increased due to weather conditions, however, even an increase above 0.3% would not result in producing plants viable for any recreational use. According to the Congressional Research Service a level of 1% THC is considered the threshold for cannabis to have any psychotropic effect or intoxicating potential. Strains of cannabis sold in Colorado for recreational purposes have up to a 30% level of THC. Besaw noted:
“We would be disappointed if any of our plants test above a 0.3% THC level, and as we told the United States Attorney’s office, pursuant to Tribal law, those plants would have been destroyed. But let’s be clear, when we talk about plants possibly testing for a THC level higher than expected we are still talking about THC levels around 1% or less. That is not a type of marijuana that is smoked because it would not induce any type of psychoactive effects.”

The Warrant makes reference to information gathered by DEA agents on October 19, 2015. The presence of these agents on the Reservation was at the invitation of the Tribe for the purpose of taking samples of the plants to prove they met the definition of industrial hemp. The samples were taken under the understanding that the results would be shared with the Tribe and federal officials in order to continue discussions related to this issue. The Tribe did not believe that those agents were present to conduct a search or gather evidence for the purpose of obtaining an order to destroy the crops.

The invitation to the federal agents to test the plants was another step in discussions with federal officials in regard to issues related to Industrial Hemp that had been ongoing for months. Almost all of the information contained in the search warrant, including the GPS coordinates of the industrial hemp field and the names of all persons involved in the cultivation (Indian and non-Indian) was voluntarily provided by the Tribe to federal officials approximately three months prior to the execution of the Warrant.

The Tribe had made clear to federal officials on many occasions, including on the day before the federal raid, that if any of the industrial hemp plants tested above 0.3% the Tribe would destroy those plants itself. In addition to meeting a number of times with the United States Attorney’s Office the Tribe provided a detailed letter to that Office in July regarding its industrial hemp project.

The Tribe is currently reviewing all its legal options related to this issue. At a minimum it will ask a federal court to declare that the Farm Bill provisions allowing cultivation of industrial hemp are applicable to the Menominee Tribe.
Attached as background material are the Tribe’s July 27, 2015 letter to the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and the Tribe’s letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding testing of the industrial hemp plants by federal officials on October 16, 2015.

The Congressional Research Services February 2, 2015 Paper titled Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity can be found at
For more information please contact Gary Besaw, Menominee Tribal Chairman, at (715)799-5114 or