Tribe loses bid to resume hemp growing in California after DEA seizure

A federal judge has rejected an effort by an American Indian tribe to resume growing hemp in Stockton, California.

The Winnemucca Shoshoni tribe had sued the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and San Joaquin County in October over the removal of 26 acres of hemp – a crop the tribe valued at $77 million.

The tribe also asked the judge for a court order overturning a recently approved county ban on industrial hemp growing.

But the judge has rejected the request, according to The (Stockton) Record, siding with county authorities that the Nevada-based tribe was falsely claiming an academic affiliation to appear compliant with federal law.

“This is clearly a business enterprise, not an educational or research institution,” the county argued.

California does not recognize the tribe’s academic partner, American States University, as an institution of higher education.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in 2014 that it would not prosecute federal laws regulating the growing or selling of marijuana on tribal lands, even in states where cannabis is illegal.

But tribes experimenting with hemp and marijuana have been periodically raided by federal drug authorities, with their legal challenges rebuffed.

Legal uncertainty over tribal authority to grow industrial hemp has led hemp activists to call for new language in the 2018 Farm Bill to specifically authorize tribal hemp production.