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Menominee Tribe sues federal government over hemp raid

The Menominee Nation filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking a federal judge to clarify that the tribe has a right to grow industrial hemp — a crop related to marijuana — on its Wisconsin reservation.

The lawsuit comes after federal and state agents seized 30,000 hemp plants the tribe was growing on its reservation in late October. According to court documents, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration believed the hemp contained marijuana and the operation was being managed by a Colorado man who runs a cannabis growing consulting firm.

The lawsuit, filed in Milwaukee against the two federal agencies, asks a judge to declare that the tribe has the right to grow hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill. That bill allows colleges or states to grow industrial hemp — defined as a cannabis plant that contains no more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the chemical in marijuana that causes psychotropic effects.

The Menominee argues that it entered into an agreement with its tribal college to grow and research hemp with an eye toward selling it to help the impoverished reservation, which was legal under the bill. The tribe reached an agreement with the DEA and the DOJ to destroy any hemp that tested above the 0.3 percent limit for THC, the lawsuit alleges. But the agencies raided the reservation, raising concerns they could mount more raids and violate the reservation’s sovereignty, according to the lawsuit.

“Other states cultivate industrial hemp without threats or interference from the United States government,” Menominee Chairman Gary Besaw said in a statement. “In contrast, when our Tribe attempted to cultivate industrial hemp we were subjected to armed federal agents who came to our Reservation and destroyed our crop.”

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Gregory Haanstad, whose jurisdiction includes the Menominee reservation, declined to comment.

According to an affidavit for search warrants tied to the raid, Bureau of Indian Affairs field tests on the Menominee hemp a day before the plants were seized came back positive for marijuana. The affidavit doesn’t elaborate or offer any percentages of THC.

The affidavit also alleges that the Colorado man was running the grow operation. The Menominee had no jurisdiction over him because he’s not a tribal member, making him subject to federal and Wisconsin law and Wisconsin law outlaws marijuana in all forms. One of the DOJ’s priorities, the affidavit added, is preventing marijuana from moving from states that legalize it, such as Colorado, to states where it’s illegal.

The tribe’s lawsuit makes no mention of the man or the agents’ justifications for the raid. Timothy Purdon said the lawsuit address very narrow legal questions about the legality of growing hemp and declined further comment.


Supreme Court hears case over education powers

The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could result in giving Gov. Scott Walker more control over how state education policy is implemented by limiting the powers of the state superintendent.

While the current fight is over a 2011 law, the Supreme Court is being asked by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to overturn its unanimous ruling from 19 years ago that solidified the state superintendent’s independence as head of the Department of Public Instruction.

The case is about preserving the state superintendent’s role as a nonpartisan constitutional officer in charge of implementing and overseeing education policy, said superintendent Tony Evers, who has held the office since 2009 and attended Tuesday’s arguments.

“Now is not the time for activist court rulings that overturn long-standing constitutional precedence,” Evers said in a statement.

The Supreme Court took the case after Evers won twice at the lower-court level.

Justices peppered attorneys with questions over 2½ hours of arguments, focused largely on whether the Legislature giving the governor veto power over administrative rules pursued by the state superintendent amounts to a violation of its 1996 ruling.

“What has changed in 20 years to cause us to overrule a unanimous decision?” asked Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who was on the court along with Justice Shirley Abrahamson in 1996. They now comprise the two-justice liberal minority on the seven-member court.

State Department of Justice attorney David Meany argued that if the ruling prohibits the Legislature from making such a change, then it should be overturned.

The 2011 law signed by Walker requires all state agencies, including the Department of Public Instruction, to get approval from the governor before drafting new administrative rules — the legal language that enacts agency policies and laws passed by the Legislature. Under previous law, the rules were written by state agencies and reviewed by the Legislature, but not the governor, before taking effect.


Branstad joins lawsuit challenging EPA clean-water rules

Gov. Terry Branstad has joined a federal lawsuit that challenges new federal rules on the oversight of smaller waterways, tributaries and wetlands.

Branstad said Tuesday he had intervened in a case pending in North Dakota against the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Branstad says he joins the lawsuit in support of 13 other states.

Opponents say the rules, issued earlier this year, are a federal power grab that impose barriers in allowing states to properly oversee water-quality practices. Supporters, including President Barack Obama, say they protect those bodies of water from development and pollution.

The rules are on hold as federal courts consider a number of lawsuits over their implementation.

Mother imprisoned for not protecting daughter from sex abuse

A Council Bluffs woman has been given 20 years in prison for aiding and abetting the sexual abuse of her daughter.

Police say the mother told investigators that she saw the boyfriend sexually abuse her daughter over several years, starting when the girl was younger than 10. The woman told police she witnessed the abuse as many as seven times and never reported it or protected her daughter.

The Daily Nonpareil reports that the woman also had pleaded guilty to lascivious acts. Prosecutors modified one of the charges and dropped two other counts in exchange for the woman’s pleas.

The woman’s former boyfriend has been charged with several felony sex abuse counts.

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