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Kentucky hemp helps Oglala building project

MOUNT RUSHMORE, S.D. - Standing beneath the sculpted faces of four presidents, former Republican Gov. Louie B. Nunn of Kentucky turned over a pickup and trailer load of industrial hemp to Milo Yellowhair of Pine Ridge.

Kentucky hemp growers supported the Pine Ridge Land Use Project members after their industrial hemp crop was destroyed and confiscated by federal officers of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The choice of Mount Rushmore as a transfer location was prompted by the fact that two of the presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, grew industrial hemp.

The 20 bales and 55 large bags of industrial hemp donated by the Kentucky Hemp Growers Association was imported from Canada in accordance with the North American Free Trade Agreement, Nunn said.

"We are proud to be able to help."

Members of the Slim Butte Land Use Project traveled to Kentucky to arrange the transportation of the industrial hemp that will be used to create bricks for home construction.

"We are picking up exactly the same material destroyed by the DEA. That's absurd. We aren't going to let their foolishness stop our progress," said Tom Cook, Slim Butte Land Use Association coordinator.

Yellowhair said new bricks should be made in the beginning of the year and construction of a home to be owned by Ernest Afraid of Bear will resume shortly thereafter with completion scheduled for spring.

The industrial hemp crops of the land-use project and a small acreage owned by Alex White Plume and his family were cut and ultimately destroyed. The federal government makes no distinction between the hemp used for clothing, building materials, food, alternative to plastics and some 150 other uses, and the product used for recreational or medical purposes.

Nunn said in Kentucky, where automobile assembly is big business, the General Motors Corp. plans to use industrial hemp to make material used in bumpers and other areas of the vehicle that now employ plastic products. He said it is safer and in an accident there is less risk of being cut.

The support from a former governor is important to the project and to the awareness of industrial hemp as a viable and legal product, Yellowhair said. He added that Nunn's presence was more important than that of some movie stars.

Nunn added that because of the $500 million the DEA receives each year to eradicate ditch weeds, which are actually hemp, there is no hope the organization will support a different set of standards for the product that is used as a mood-altering drug.

He said a Kentucky study discovered that only one person used industrial hemp for psychoactive purposes and he ended up with only a stomachache.

"We have to send the message that we are promoting the use of industrial hemp and support the eradication of marijuana," Nunn said.

"There is a need on the (Pine Ridge) reservation. There is diabetes and poor housing and hemp can accelerate economic development for Pine Ridge."

Actor Woody Harrelson challenged the Kentucky law by planting seeds in Lee County to provoke his arrest. Nunn served on his defense team. Harrelson was acquitted of growing marijuana.

Trials for those arrested for growing the industrial hemp in South Dakota will come up sometime after the first of the year, Yellow Hair said.

At 5 a.m. on Aug. 24, armed Drug Enforcement Administration troops and FBI officers, began to destroy an acre and a half of industrial hemp, the first crop of what was to be a future of economic development for the White Plume Family. On the same day the crop grown and nurtured by the Slim Buttes Land Use Project was cut and confiscated.

What the White Plume family and the Land Use Project people did when they planted the hemp was legal according to the laws of the Oglala Lakota Nation. The tribal council passed Ordinance 98-27 in July of 1998 that authorized growing industrial hemp. The ordinance clarifies industrial hemp to have a level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), to be less than 1 percent by weight. THC is the chemical that creates the hallucinogenic effect.

White Plume said the officers told him a test revealed between zero and less than 1 percent THC for his plants.

U.S. Attorney Ted McBride pointed out that the federal government does not make such a fine distinction and therefore does not support the tribe's ordinance. The government requires anyone wishing to grow industrial hemp to register it with the DEA, whether on a reservation or not. The government's definition of marijuana does not quantify the amount of THC the plant carries.

Thomas Ballanco, the lawyer who wrote the ordinance, contends that tribal members who abide by the rules of the tribal ordinance are immune from federal prosecution. It becomes a treaty issue, therefore a sovereignty issue.

McBride said in an earlier interview the federal government would not accept that explanation and any tribal member who did not register planting industrial hemp with the DEA would be subject to prosecution.

The growers registered the land for planting hemp with the tribe as the ordinance requires.