Sioux Dream of Cannabis Goes up in Smoke & A
Cannabis Business Consultant is Facing Up to 15 Years in Jail
By: Lee Galice
In 2015 the US company, Monarch America, was hired to consult on a development project on land belonging to the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe in South Dakota. The project was the building of a cannabis based destination resort by the Santee Sioux who also own the Royal River Casino & Hotel.
While this project may sound like an unrealistic endeavor because of the various laws regarding the legalization of cannabis, the tribe and Monarch America believed it would be a perfect business opportunity to help economically elevate the people of the tribe in the same way that the casinos have. And why wouldn’t they have thought that after reading the two legal documents that exist in relation to legalizing the cultivation or use of marijuana in Indian Country? The two documents are “The Cole Memorandum” and “The Wilkinson Memorandum”. The following is written in the Wilkinson’s Memo in 2014: “The Cole Memorandum provides guidance to United States Attorneys on the proper prioritization of marijuana enforcement in their districts given the number of states that have moved to legalize marijuana for medicinal, agricultural, or recreational use. The eight priorities in the Cole Memorandum will guide United States Attorneys’ marijuana enforcement efforts in Indian Country, including the event that sovereign Indian nations seek to legalize the cultivation or use of marijuana in Indian Country. Nothing in the Cole Memorandum alters the authority or jurisdiction of the United States to enforce federal law in Indian Country.” (Wilkinson Memo)
In 2015, Eric M. Hagen and Jonathan Hunt, President and Vice president respectively of Monarch America, began consulting for Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe’s cannabis resort project. In late 2015, fearing invasion of their land and the overstepping of their business venture by the US federal government, the tribe is said to have burned approximately six hundred plants that would have been used at their resort.
According to multiple news outlets, Eric Hagen was indicted with conspiracy to possess, possession and attempting to possess more than 10 pounds of marijuana. Jonathan Hunt, the cultivation expert, was charged with conspiracy to possess between a half-pound and a pound of marijuana. Jonathan Hunt is said to have reached a plea deal with the Attorney General Marty Jackley on the lesser charge of conspiracy to possess between one-half and one pound of marijuana while Eric Hagen faces a juried trial starting this Friday, May 26th in Moody County, South Dakota. If convicted, Eric, who was born and raised in South Dakota, would face up to 15 years in prison for consulting on the Santee Sioux tribe’s resort project. Jury selection started on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The jury has not been easy to obtain as multiple people have been taken off the jury because of their bias of not wanting to have a cannabis-based resort being developed in ‘their’ area. The controversy arises due to the fact that the tribal land is considered a sovereign nation and therefore in possession of supreme or ultimate power per the definition of the word sovereign. So are the Santee Sioux in possession of ultimate power in their own nation?
Marty Jackley, who pressed his state prosecutors to bring charges against Hagen, is said to be expected to run for Governor in 2018. Marty has been outspoken in his opposition of the tribe’s cannabis project and apparently has a point to prove. Not all people in the surrounding area are opposed to the tribe doing what they wish on their land though. According to various comments and post on social media there are a number of residents that would be fine with them creating a cannabis-based resort. An example, posted on Facebook by a local resident in August of last year, reads “Moody County State’s Attorney Paul Lewis delivered a different message, though. While Jackley said the state couldn’t control tribal members’ decisions as far as using marijuana on reservation territory, Lewis said the tribe should listen to the message presented with the charges.”
“This is not an indictment against the members of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe,” Lewis said. “This indictment is a clarion call from the people of the state of South Dakota to the Executive Council of Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe to reconsider their efforts towards moving forward with an adult playground for marijuana ingestion and consumption.”
In regards to the above quote by Moody County State’s Attorney Paul Lewis, a resident named Michael Miller stated “Paul Lewis has neither the authority nor the right to speak on my behalf. I demand a retraction of this statement and an apology to the people of South Dakota whom he has blatantly slandered.”
While marijuana and marijuana regulations are currently hot controversial topics of discussion, so was alcohol during prohibition. It also appears that tribal rules is another hot topic. Is tribal land actually sovereign? If you live in South Dakota and travel to Amsterdam can you legally ingest cannabis recreationally? Yes. So why is this not the case if you travel from South Dakota to the ‘sovereign nation’ that exists within it belonging to the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe? If the tribal council determines cannabis to be legal on their land does that mean that an adult who travels there can freely live by those internal laws created by the governing sovereign nation, or could they be held to the current and outdated laws of South Dakota? Is there a difference between the tribal land and Amsterdam? Would Hagen be held to US laws if he consulted for a business being created in Amsterdam? Or is this about something more? Something more economic perhaps? Something more political?
Does Attorney General Marty Jackley truly believe that Eric M. Hagen deserves the level of punishement set before him? Does Marty truly believe that Hagen should be separated from his wife and young daughter for 15 years? Is breaking up a family worth the possible political gain?
Eric M. Hagen is not a criminal. He is a family man, a business man, caught in the changing of times. One day cannabis will be legal everywhere and this will be a nonissue. I truly hope that Attorney General Marty Jackley looks ahead, looks beyond his immediate political gain and sees from the point of view of a father and a husband just like Hagen. There is no benefit to imprisoning an upstanding family man that contributes to society. Is this moral? Is this necessary?
Wilkinson memo link:
Sioux Dream of Cannabis Goes up in Smoke