My blog is dedicated to the exploration of industrial hemp in America including the rich history of all forms of cannabis, the evolving law and politics of hemp and marijuana, the many products made from cannabis and the capacity, real or imagined, of hemp to re-industrialize rural America and revitalize the American family farm.
1937: Passage of the federal Marijuana Tax Act essentially criminalizes marijuana and casts a pall over all forms of the cannabis plant, including the variety known as industrial hemp, which does not produce a high when ingested and has been used for centuries to produce fabrics, paper and even food.
1970: Passage of the federal Controlled Substances Act requires prospective hemp growers to obtain a registration from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which rejects nearly all applications for decades. Hemp products continue to be sold in the United States, but the products are either imported or made from imported hemp.
1998: The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation adopts an ordinance that defines industrial hemp and exempts it from the tribal ban on marijuana.
2000: Tribal member Alex White Plume plants and raises a hemp crop near Manderson. Federal agents destroy the crop.
2001: White Plume’s brother, Percy, plants a hemp crop that is destroyed by federal agents.
2002: White Plume’s sister, Ramona, plants a hemp crop in the spring and the family harvests it in August. Days after the harvest, the federal government seeks and ultimately obtains a court order, known as an injunction, that prevents the family from cultivating hemp without permission from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
2006: White Plume and his legal team lose an appeal of the injunction.
2013: Following voter approval of ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington to legalize recreational marijuana, then-deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole issues what comes to be known as the Cole Memorandum, a document outlining a more lenient approach to the enforcement of federal marijuana laws. A follow-up memo from Monty Wilkinson, director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, extends the Cole Memorandum guidelines to federal marijuana enforcement on Native American reservations.
2014: A congressional farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, includes a section that allows hemp farming if it’s conducted as a pilot program or research project in conjunction with an institution of higher learning in a state where industrial hemp is allowed.
2015: Tim Purdon, a lawyer with the national Robins Kaplan firm, files a motion asking a judge to lift the injunction against White Plume’s cultivation of hemp.
2016: A judge lifts the injunction against Alex White Plume, but with growth and cultivation of industrial hemp still outlawed in South Dakota and uncertainty about tribal authority to allow hemp-growing under the 2014 farm bill, work remains to craft a situation in which White Plume can resume hemp farming.