Tribe sues DEA, California county for removal of 26-acre hemp crop

A Native American tribe based in Nevada is suing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration over the seizure of a 26-acre hemp crop growing in California.

The Winnemucca Indian Colony of Nevada – a federally recognized tribe of Western Shoshone and Northern Paiute Indians in northwestern Nevada – is also suing officials in San Joaquin County, California, where the grow was located, according to TV station KCRA.

The tribe wants a temporary restraining order, return of the plants and a declaration that a San Joaquin County ordinance banning the grow is unlawful, the Sacramento-based station reported.

The Winnemucca tribe rented the property in Stockton and contracted a California marijuana producer, SG Farms, to grow industrial hemp for research purposes.

San Joaquin County told the tribe in August that its research claim was not enough to establish its ability to grow hemp in the county. California allows hemp growing, but only under the auspices of a state-approved university research program.

On Oct. 10, the DEA and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office seized the plants.

The California hemp case is the latest example of ongoing legal uncertainty facing Indian tribes and hemp.

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. Other tribes, however, have found success growing hemp in conjunction with state hemp programs.