Marijuana Industry Watches ‘Game Changer’ South Dakota Cases


All eyes in the marijuana industry are on South Dakota following the news last week that the state’s top prosecutor would bring felony charges against a pair of consultants who helped a Native American tribe grow marijuana.

While federal raids have taken place across the country as tribes enter into marijuana and hemp growing operations, industry officials think South Dakota is the first state to bring charges against a pair of marijuana consultants who helped the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe cultivate its crop.

The charges also mark the first time an attorney general has targeted how marijuana seeds arrived at a location where they were grown, an issue largely ignored in states that have legalized the drug.

Chris Lindsey, a Montana-based lawyer and legal analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, said the legal action from a state’s attorney general rather than a U.S. attorney also constitutes a “game changer.” Lindsey said this is the first instance he has seen of consultants facing charges in connection with their efforts to assist the tribe.

“This is a troubling development,” Lindsey said. “This is something we’ll be watching.”

Similar marijuana and hemp growing operations among California and Wisconsin tribes have been subject to federal raids, but charges never emerged. The Flandreau tribe razed its crop of more than 600 plants in November, citing a similar probe.

The cases against Monarch America heads Eric Hagen and Jonathan Hunt could have national implications, Robert Hunt, a Denver-based attorney and cannabis consultant, said, as other states could view them as precedent-setting.

“I’ve never seen charges brought forth on the immaculate conception issue … this is a brand new question and one that the cannabis industry is watching,” Hunt said.

The issue at hand is getting the first seed to the place where it will be planted and grown. In states like South Dakota where marijuana is illegal, the state has discretion to press charges for transporting or ordering those seeds, even if the feds won’t.

And while states like Colorado, Washington and California have turned a blind eye to how the first seeds arrive there after legalization, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has taken a stance that the “immaculate conception” approach isn’t going to fly in this state.

And the charges are apparently the first to address this issue.

So while the state’s nine Native American tribes have received clearance from the U.S. Justice Department to legalize marijuana on tribal land, getting the seeds there could lead to criminal charges.

Jackley says he has no plans to indict Flandreau Santee Sioux tribal members for their involvement in the marijuana grow operation and has said tribes through their sovereignty have the right to grow and use marijuana. But he has sent a clear message that any non-tribal members who come in and attempt something similar will be at risk.

And that message was apparent, even before charges were brought, Hunt said. Months before the Flandreau tribe legalized marijuana and proposed a lounge on its land, Hunt met with Jackley to discuss the federal authorization. Hunt said Jackley made it clear then and throughout the discussion with the Flandreau Tribe that bringing marijuana seeds to South Dakota would not be permitted.

“I think Marty Jackley made very clear to anyone that was listening that he didn’t want marijuana brought to South Dakota,” Hunt said. “I think Monarch America and the Santee Sioux Tribe should have listened.”

Lael Echo-Hawk, a Washington D.C.-based attorney and general counsel for the National Indian Cannabis Coalition, said the news would likely have a chilling effect on tribes entering into similar ventures with marijuana growing groups.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Marijuana Industry Watches ‘Game Changer’ South Dakota Cases
Author: Dana Ferguson
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Photo Credit: Joe Ahlquist
Website: Argus Leader