By Harmony Birch, Brattleboro Reformer
BRATTLEBORO — Alex White Plume was nervous when he started planting hemp seeds in 2000. His children had come up with the idea. “They’re well educated,” he said.
White Plume visited Vermont Hempicurean on Saturday to share stories about his fight with the Drug Enforcement Agency to grow hemp, and to talk about Oglala Lakota-U.S. relations.
White Plume had been looking for a new crop to farm. Corn, he said, was out of the question because it’s difficult to find seeds that aren’t genetically modified and don’t come from Monsanto, a controversial agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation. Hemp, however, can be sold to companies to make fibers, textiles, biodegradable plastics, food, biofuel and more.
Hemp is a strain of cannabis with lower levels of THC and higher levels of cannabidiol which counteracts its psychoactive effects and has medicinal properties.
In 2014, a law known as the “Farm Bill” was passed that allows the sale and research of industrial hemp in states where it’s legal. Regardless of the legality of growing hemp at the federal level, White Plume said he was in good legal standing to do it back in 2000.
White Plume lives on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The reservation is considered its own nation under the Treaty of Fort Laramie, made in 1868. The U.S. federal government isn’t supposed to interfere with reservations unless someone has violated a major crime, such as murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse, felony child abuse or neglect, arson, or larceny.
Despite the Farm Bill and the sale of hemp and CBD across the U.S., the Drug Enforcement Agency has been scrutinizing hemp as heavily as it would other forms of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, according to White Plume.
The autumn of his first harvest season, the DEA came and took