SD Tribal Consultants Enter Opposing Pleas in Narcotics Case

Just Released! Get realistic market forecasts, state-by-state insights and benchmarks with the new 2024 MJBiz Factbook member program, now with quarterly updates. Make informed decisions.

A pair of Colorado-based consultants who were contracted to help a South Dakota tribe start a marijuana resort on Native American land have entered opposing pleas in connection with state narcotics crimes.

The case highlights how tribal interests in marijuana have receded since a U.S. Department of Justice memo in late 2014 sparked a short-lived speculative rush that tribes nationwide could get the green light by the federal government to grow and sell cannabis.

The South Dakota tribe, the Flandreau Santee Sioux, represented the most ambitious of such plans after the Wilkinson Memo from the DOJ appeared to give the federal government’s blessing to tribes that wanted to get into the marijuana industry.

Jonathan Hunt, who oversaw the tribe’s first cannabis crop, pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy count in Flandreau, a city next to the reservation where the resort never materialized, the Argus Leader reported.

Eric Hagen, the CEO of Colorado-based Monarch America, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to possess, possession and attempt to possess more than 10 pounds of cannabis, according to the paper.

South Dakota prosecutors filed the charges against Hunt and Hagen earlier this month.

Fearing a federal raid, the tribe burned its fledgling marijuana crop. It is now focused on growing vegetables such as tomatoes.