White Plume suffers from loss of hemp crop

By Hazel Bonner
Lakota Journal Correspondent



RAPID CITY – What do you call farmers who grow a plant that can help solve our energy and deforestation problems? A national advertisement by The Body Shop, the world’s largest manufacturer and seller of hemp-based body care products states that in the United States, they are called criminals.

Industrial hemp because it contains less than one percent THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana, is classified as a controlled substance by the federal government and most states. Evidence shows that it is not the same as the dreaded plant marijuana.

Industrial hemp is the product destroyed by United States Drug Enforcement Agency agents at Alex White Plume’s ranch on the Pine Ridge Reservation for the past two years. White Plume plans on planting again next spring, if he can afford to.

White Plume and his family are suffering financially from the loss of his crop. He had a buyer for the hemp at $250 per bale. The destruction of the crop has left him in need of selling some of the horses on his ranch.

Industrial hemp is the agricultural product that the Oglala Sioux Tribe has specifically identified as legal on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Bruce Ellison, Rapid city Attorney, represented White Plume, convincing him to sign a permission to search his family land on the Pine Ridge Reservation and to “seize any plants of the genus cannabis sativa, whether referred to as hemp or marijuana, and to destroy any such plant.” Ellison was not present during the destruction of the crop.

Ellison plans on having a lawsuit preventing the destruction of another crop filed in federal court before the next spring planting. A call to his Rapid City office to ask when the suit will be filed went unanswered.

Industrial hemp is the product that a group of supporters are attempting to get on the South Dakota Ballot this year. One of the events in support of this effort is the Hemp for Victory rally this weekend at the Whiskey River Outpost east of Pierre. Alex white Plume is scheduled to speak at the event.

The name of the event commemorates the World War II effort in this country to grow industrial hemp for the war effort. South Dakota farmers, including some on the Pine Ridge Reservation were provided hemp seeds and supported in growing hemp for many products useful during the war.

Bob Newland, organizer of the event this weekend and the petition drive, says he plans on filing 16,000 signatures by May 2002 to get the issue on the ballot in November 2002. The petition needs 13,010 signatures in order to be on the ballot.

The petition seeks legalization of the planting, harvesting, possession and sale of industrial hemp in South Dakota if it contains no more than one- percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance in marijuana that gets smokers high.

Jason Lind, 23, of Tea, South Dakota supports the effort. He was quoted by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader in an article on August 30. He said, “I got in this because of the loss of trees and the fuel situation. You can make a lot of things from hemp…You would have to smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole to feel any effect. With hemp there is no danger of getting high.”

Matthew Ducheneaux, Eagle butte, is currently fighting his own legal battle for the right to use marijuana to ease spasms caused by his quadriplegia. He says, “Any idiot knows that marijuana and industrial hemp are not the same. I don’ think any amount of industrial hemp could get you high.”

In the past Legislative session, state lawmakers killed a bill that would have allowed hemp production in South Dakota. Supporters say, more than 20 other states are pushing such legislation.

Bob Weber, South Dakota State Representative from Strandburg is quoted in the Brookings Register on March 20, 2000. He said, “During World War II, my dad raised hemp in South Dakota. The government gave us the seed because we were short on hemp from other countries. The slogan was Hemp for Victory.”

Weber states in an editorial in the Watertown Public Opinion, “Hemp is not marijuana…Hemp is seven times stronger than denim, 12 times stronger than the material we now use to make twine and rope. Anything that can be made from wood or plastic can be made from hemp – and it is biodegradable.”

State and federal agriculture and law enforcement officials oppose the legalization effort. Even if state voters approved, federal laws will still prevent farmers from legally growing the crop.

Law enforcement officials charged with enforcing the prohibition against marijuana say that the plants' appearances are very similar. They believe that hemp fields could conceal marijuana.

Supporters of industrial hemp counter by stating that planting marijuana anywhere near industrial hemp would be ill conceived. When hemp pollinates marijuana, it transfers the genes for low drug content to developing seeds of the marijuana.

When hemp repeatedly crosses with new marijuana plants the drug content is repeatedly reduced in the plants. The drug content will become so low and uncertain that the derived marijuana will be useless as a drug plant.

Simple field chemical tests can determine whether a plant is marijuana or hemp. The United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention published a document entitled chemical and Physiological Identification of Indian Hemp. The document states that the identification of Indian hemp no longer offers any difficulty today.

History of Hemp production -

Hemp fiber has a long history. It was described by Herodotus as used in garments made by the Thracians. Its use for making cordage is noted as early as 200 BC.

The original country of the hemp plant is not positively known, but is generally believed to the extreme northern part of India. It has been found to produce in temperate climates an abundance of strong fibers.

In the United States industrial hemp was grown during colonization. The plant is native to some parts of the country. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.

Prior to 1937 hemp was grown in this country for use in many products. In 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act was passed.

The act was devised to protect synthetic material producers and the petroleum and paper companies from the competition from hemp. The bill killed hemp production in the United States.

The U.S. military, particularly the Navy, still used hemp, mostly for rope. In 1939 the Japanese took the Philippine Islands, cutting off the Navy’s hemp supply.

In 1941, the Japanese attacked the U.S. The cry went out, “Hemp for Victory!”

The Departments of Agriculture and Defense gave farmers hemp seed and guaranteed them a market for the hemp they grew.

For three years until the war ended, hemp was once again, an important farm crop in South Dakota. Farmers on the Pine Ridge Reservation were asked to aid in the war effort and provided seed.

When the United States government stepped up their effort to eradicate marijuana, a plant from the same family as hemp, they made no distinction between marijuana, which usually contains more than 10 percent of the mind altering THC, and hemp.

Today’s prohibition on industrial hemp ignores the counsel of the first President George Washington. He said in 1794, “Make the most you can of the Indian hemp seed and sow it everywhere.”

Benefits of industrial hemp

“Industrial hemp is a non-drug, earth-friendly, industrial crop that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve a greater level of U.S. energy independence,” according to R. James Wolsey, of Shea & Garner, Washington, DC, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Demand for paper products is expected to double within 25 years. Unless tree-free sources of paper are developed, there is no way to meet future demand without causing massive deforestation and environmental damage.

Hemp seeds contain a protein that is more nutritious and more economical to produce than soybean protein. Hemp seed protein can be used to produce virtually any product made from soybean: tofu, veggie burgers, butter, cheese, salad oils, ice cream, milk and more. Hemp seed can also be ground into nutritious flour that can be used to produce baked goods, such as pasta, cookies, and breads.

On an annual basis, one acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as two to three acres of cotton. Hemp fiber is stronger and softer than cotton, lasts twice as long, and will not mildew.

Cotton grows only in moderate climates and requires more water than hemp. Hemp is frost tolerant and grows in all 50 states. Cotton requires large quantities of pesticides and herbicides. Fifty percent of the world’s pesticides/herbicides are used on cotton. Hemp requires no pesticides, no herbicides, and only moderate amounts of fertilizer.

Hemp seed oil can be used to produce non-toxic diesel fuel, paint, varnish, detergent, ink and lubricating oil. Because hemp seeds account for up to half the weight of a mature hemp plant, hemp seed is a viable source for these products.

Literary millions of wild hemp plants currently grow throughout the U.S. Wild hemp is known as ditch weed. Marijuana laws prevent farmers from growing the same hemp plant that proliferates in nature by the millions.

The widespread use of industrial hemp could result in numerous environmental benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Less reliance on fossil fuels
  • More efficient use of energy
  • Less long-term atmospheric build-up of carbon dioxide
  • Soil redemption
  • Forest conservation
  • Agricultural pesticide reduction
  • Dioxin and other pollution reduction, and
  • Landfill use reduction.

Hemp is superior to many other plants for a variety of uses. Industrial hemp can be utilized quite effectively for paper manufacture. While it takes years for trees to grow until they can be harvested for paper or wood, hemp is ready for harvesting only 120 days after it is planted.

Hemp can grow on most land suitable for farming, but forests and tree farms require large tracts of land available in few locations. Harvesting hemp rather than trees would eliminate erosion due to logging, thereby reducing topsoil loss and water pollution caused by soil runoff.

On an annual basis, one acre of hemp will produce as much paper as two to four acres of trees. From tissue paper to cardboard, all types of paper products can be produced from hemp.

No other natural resource offers the potential of hemp. Cannabis Hemp, also known as Indian hemp, is capable of producing significant quantities of paper, textiles, building materials, food, medicine, paint, detergent, varnish, oil, ink and fuel.

Indian hemp has enormous potential to become a major natural resource than can benefit both the economy and the environment. According to an article in Popular Mechanics, 1988, “Over 25,000 products can be manufactured from hemp, from cellophane to dynamite.”

The effort to legalize industrial hemp

If you are interested in finding out more about industrial hemp and efforts to legalize its production in South Dakota and the nation there are several things you can do.

A wealth of information is available from the North American Industrial Hemp Council, Inc. Write them at NAIHC, PO Box 259329, Madison, WI 53725-9329. You can visit them on line at http://naihc.org/.

In South Dakota contact the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Council by writing Bob Newland, HC 89 Box 184-A, Hermosa SD 57744. Newland is the editor of a publication entitled Hemp for Victory. The publication premiered this last summer. It contains a wealth of information about industrial hemp and facts on the war on drugs.

For more information on the fight to grow industrial hemp on the Pine Ridge Reservation, visit their website at http://nativesunite.org/. That website has a great deal of information about White Plume. It also includes a carefully researched and well-documented legal memorandum entitled "A Field of Industrial Hemp."

Over half the states have enacted or are considering laws to either allow industrial hemp cultivation or petitioning the federal government to reclassify industrial hemp so it is no longer legally defined as a controlled substance according to a brochure on industrial hemp produced by the Kenan Institute.

North Dakota has changed its laws to again allow for the growing of industrial hemp. A state representative from that state says, “My friend across the border in Manitoba, Canada, is making money raising industrial hemp. I am losing money raising wheat.”

You may also sign and circulate a petition to legalize industrial hemp in South Dakota. Petitions are available from Newland at the above address. Petitions were available at the Hemp for Victory celebration at the Whisky River outpost gathering September 14 and 15.

Photos: DEA agents destroying hemp plants, courtesy of Natives Unite;
Alex White Plume, courtesy of MSNBC