WI: St. Croix Tribe Sues AG Over Plans To Grow Hemp For CBD Oil Production

Photo Credit: Dylan Lovan

A northern Wisconsin tribe has filed a federal lawsuit against Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel.

The St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin argue the state doesn’t have authority over hemp processing on its reservation and is asking the federal court to rule on whether the tribe has civil authority to grow hemp to produce CBD oil as is planned.

States like Wisconsin have authority over criminal matters on reservations under the federal Public 280 law. However, the tribal attorney argues the state’s regulation of hemp production and CBD oil make those civil matters that would fall under the tribe’s authority.

Jeff Cormell, general counsel for the St. Croix tribe, said they filed a lawsuit against Schimel because the state’s top law enforcement official objected to the tribe’s plans.

“He’s continued to object to our ordinance, and the cultivation and manufacture for any purpose for hemp oil or for CBD, in his mind, would be a violation of Wisconsin law and be enforced against the tribe,” said Cormell.

He said the lawsuit seeks to resolve the dispute between the tribe and state over whether the tribe’s plans would be a violation of criminal law.

“At this point, the tribe is not proposing to do anything that is illegal under Wisconsin state law. On the one end, you’re going to be cultivating hemp, which is now legal under state law,” Cormell said. “On the other end, you’re going to have processing of CBD, which possession of is legal under state law.”

In 2014, lawmakers passed a bill named Lydia’s Law, making CBD oil available to people in limited cases. However, some patients argued they couldn’t access it because of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval required for prescriptions.

Last year, lawmakers passed a bill so that people could legally possess CBD oil with a doctor’s approval. In addition, lawmakers recently paved the way for hemp production in the state. However, the law hasn’t clearly allowed CBD oil production.

Johnny Koremenos, a spokesman with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, declined to comment on the lawsuit in an email, saying attorneys have yet to review it.

“We believe that any jurisdictional challenge to the application of Wisconsin’s criminal code on tribal lands will fail,” wrote Koremenos.

CBD oil has been used to treat seizures and other medical issues. The St. Croix tribe said its plans for hemp production would be an economic development opportunity that would create 15 full-time jobs. The tribe has invested at least $3 million in its plans to produce hemp for CBD oil to date, Cormell said.