FLANDREAU, S.D. (KELO) — The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is one of the first approved to grow industrial hemp under new U.S. Department of Agriculture rules.

The USDA approved three states and three tribes on Friday.

Flandreau’s Attorney General Seth Pearman confirmed to KELOLAND News that the tribe received a letter from the USDA.

“The Tribe is confident that this plant is not only an incredible economic opportunity because of its vast product offerings, but is also native to this area, and beneficial to the environment,” Pearman said in a statement.

This comes as Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) maintains a hard stance against growing the crop in the state. However, state law doesn’t apply to sovereign nations.

The U.S. Constitution states that, “Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” In practice, the Supreme Court has ruled on a number of cases that tribal governments deal with the federal government and not state governments.

The Oglala Sioux and Yankton Sioux tribes have also submitted plans to the USDA, but are not yet approved.

The three South Dakota tribes are part of 18 tribes and dozens of states in the U.S. that have filed applications with the federal agency since a process was put in place in late October.

The state or tribe have to outline to the federal government a set of guidelines:

  • Plans to maintain relevant producer and land information
  • Plans for accurate and effective sampling testing using post decarboxylation or similar reliable methods
  • Plan for disposal procedures
  • Plan for inspection procedures
  • Plan for collection of information
  • Plan to comply with enforcement procedures
  • Certification that the state or tribal government (whichever applicable) has resources and personnel to carry out required Farm Bill practices and procedures

Growers who are interested in hemp for the 2020 year in the three South Dakota tribes will have to get licensed by the tribe through the USDA.

Outside of the borders of Pine Ridge, Yankton Sioux and Flandreau, state law still applies.

“USDA does not preempt a state’s ability to adopt stronger requirements or prohibit production. South Dakota state law prohibits industrial hemp production, and that statute still stands,” Noem said in early November.

In a statement to KELOLAND News on Friday, Noem’s office said she was aware that the USDA approved Flandreau’s application.

“The governor is aware of this decision and will work with public safety officials and tribal leaders to ensure law enforcement is equipped to enforce South Dakota’s laws and keep people safe,” her spokesperson said.

The USDA rule also makes clear that the interstate commerce of hemp is not prohibited in the U.S., something South Dakota has disagreed with in the past.

“My team is working to ensure we have proper procedures in place so this doesn’t become something that weakens our drug laws,” Noem said.

The South Dakota legislature is set to take up the issue in the 2020 session in Pierre. Noem has said previously that she will veto any bill that passes.

“Conversations around hemp will continue, and I will continue to make the case that legalizing hemp will legalize marijuana by default,” Noem said.

In early December, KELOLAND News reached out to each state lawmaker to see how they would vote when the issue comes up in the 2020 session.

EXPLORE: Click here to see where your lawmaker stands on the issue.

This isn’t Flandreau’s first time looking at the Cannabis sativa plant. The tribe had plans to build a marijuana resort. The difference between the two plants is mainly the level of THC.

At the time, Attorney General Marty Jackley had argued the seeds used to support that venture were imported illegally from the Netherlands, and later, illegally grown.

In November 2015, the operation’s marijuana plants were burned in fear of a raid of the operation. 

In addition to Flandreau, the states of Louisiana, New Jersey, and Ohio, and the Santa Rosa Cahuilla, and La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indian Tribes were approved on Friday.

You can view Flandreau’s approved plan below:

Full statement from Flandreau Tribe Attorney General:

The United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) has approved the Tribe’s plan for hemp production within its territory. In a letter to President Anthony Reider from Deputy Administrator Sonia N. Jimenez, Jimenez provided that “We have reviewed your hemp plan and found it to be in compliance with the requirements in Subtitle G of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, 7 U.S.C. §§ 1639o – 1639s, and the implementing regulations at 7 CRF part 770.” The approval was issued on December 23, 2019.

The Tribe submitted its plan to the USDA on November 7, 2019. The plan regulates the production of hemp within the Tribe’s territory, including where hemp may be grown, sampling and testing of hemp plants for THC-level compliance, and destruction for plants with nonacceptable THC levels. The Tribe’s Executive Committee, as an act of its sovereign authority, has taken extensive efforts to grow hemp, and thereby expand its current agricultural activities. The Tribe is confident that this plant is not only an incredible economic opportunity because of its vast product offerings, but is also native to this area, and beneficial to the environment.

The Tribe participated in the USDA consultation on December 11, 2019 regarding the regulations that USDA promulgated, and it looks forward to providing additional comments and insight to the federal government before the final rule is put into place.

Seth Pearman, Attorney General, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe