Pine Ridge hemp farmer eyes victory in new farm bill

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MANDERSON, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- The new farm bill passed by Congress this week legalizes hemp. If the bill is signed by the president -- as expected -- it will mark a major victory for a Manderson man who fought a nearly two decade battle with federal law enforcement to bring the crop back.

Alex White Plume planted his first hemp crop in 2000 and it caught the attention of FBI and DEA agents who paid him and shut him down.

Today, he's on the eve of a final victory.

White Plume has been through a lot with his hemp efforts. After the federal agents raided his property courts enjoined him from continuing in the business. But two years ago he and his lawyers got that injunction removed and he resumed hemp farming.

"It's a super fiber plant," he says. "There's no other fiber like it in the world."

And now that the plant is poised to be legal again across the country, he's eyeing a bright future for hemp, for his family and his Oglala Sioux Tribe.

"Right now where you are standing with me here is known as the poorest community in the poorest county in the United States," he said in his Manderson hemp field. "Well, that's going to change in three to five years from now."

Hemp has many uses. Its fibers can produce cloth and paper. It's cannabinoid oils have medicinal uses. But it has suffered, legally, in association with its cousin, marijuana. But hemp wont get you high and now federal law is about to recognize that.

"In 2000 the first year I planted hemp I always remember there were 605 stores in America that sold hemp products," says White Plume. "Mainly it was bongs and glass pipes and products associated with marijuana but today there's well over 100,000 that just strictly sell hemp. So hemp has just been coming back. it's booming back. We hope to see hemp become a billion dollar industry within the next two years."

And another thing. Because of White Plume's efforts and the Vote Hemp project, the farm bill explicitly gives U.S. tribes equal footing in the regulatory process with the states. White Plume calls it a major victory for first nations across the country.