A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Menominee Indian Tribe which sought protection for industrial hemp.
The tribe filed a lawsuit last November against the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice after the agencies destroyed its hemp crop grown on its reservation in northeastern Wisconsin.
Industrial hemp has low levels of THC, the active chemical in marijuana. But it has commercial uses, including its oil for health and beauty products and hemp fiber for building materials.
The tribe argued that it was exempt from a state law banning the crop. Judge William Griesbach disagreed. He wrote that because the tribe is located in Wisconsin, the exemption does not apply.
The tribe on May 24 issued a statement: “The Tribe is disappointed with this recent setback that challenges our sovereignty as a Tribal Nation and inhibits our ability to pursue research initiatives exploring the viability of this versatile and sustainable crop. The Tribe is currently reviewing the decision to determine what options it may or may not pursue.”
Some facts about hemp
• Hemp and marijuana are of the same plant species — Cannabis sativa — but the two plants are not bred and cultivated in the same way. The level of THC is much, much lower in hemp than in pot. Hemp can’t produce a high, but it can be used to make a handsome shirt or provide nutrition.
• Hemp stalks produce two types of fiber, according to Vote Hemp, a nonprofit advocacy organization. The outer bast fiber can be processed into long strands and the inner woody core can be processed into chips.
• The fiber is durable and makes for comfortable and colorfast textiles. It is used in composites or can replace plastics or fiberglass in molded products. The fiber also can be used to make building insulation or paper, while the inner core can be used to make animal bedding or nitrogen-absorbent fertilizer. The stalk even holds promise as alternative fuel.
Hemp fiber is durable and makes for comfortable and colorfast textiles.
• The hemp seed — a tiny nut that consists of a meaty inner core and a hull — has use as birdseed and, toasted, as a human snack. But broader uses involve dehulling the seed or crushing the seed for oil, because the inner core contains two essential fatty acids — Omega-3 and Omega-6 — as well as proteins.
Advocates tout the benefits of hemp seed oil supplements, the culinary value of hemp oil and the cosmetic applications. Even the protein-rich leftover hemp meal has value and is used for animal feed as well as high-protein powders and flours for human consumption.
The U.S. market for hemp is about $450 million to $600 million a year. But with few exceptions, U.S. growers are not profiting.
The U.S. market for hemp is about $450 million to $600 million a year. But with few exceptions, U.S. growers are not profiting. There is no large-scale industrial hemp production in the U.S. and the U.S. market is dependent on imports for finished hemp products and hemp ingredients. About two dozen other countries export hemp to the United States, including Britain, France, Germany, Spain — and especially Canada. But the U.S. production lag may be about to change.