David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
When Albert White Plume and his family planted industrial hemp on their tribe's reservation, they knew there was a possibility of controversy. After all, it's hemp.
You know, the stuff they make fabrics from, rope, soap, oil, other useful things.
White Plume was aware that hemp sits on the edges of an all out American drug war. But, he reasoned, it's not a drug, the Oglala tribal council, an autonomous authority on their reservation, had approved it, he was working with the Slim Buttes Land Use Association, he had made sure the authorities knew he was growing hemp and where he was growing it and that it wasn't the kind that gets you high. He even invited the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take samples and test them to make sure. They did.
And so far, it appeared, so good. No one had shut them down. Industrial hemp. Pretzels, non-dairy cheese substitute, shoes and sneakers, other useful things. Hemp.
Then, on August 24, 2000, they came. 25 of them, maybe more, armor clad, automatic weapons, airplanes, a helicopter, a fleet of cars. They came because of the hemp. They cut the hemp down.
The stuff they make bird seed from, and shampoo. Other useful things.
The stuff Albert White Plume had hoped to take to market, to help his tribe through difficult economic times. A new crop, grown in America instead of being imported from abroad.
It's sort of like the end of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie. The part when the medieval world starts to blend with modern England, and Arthur's sword-wielding knights -- dangerous lunatics, to the people of the 20th century, who weren't living the knights' fantasy -- are rounded up by British police, disarmed, herded into the paddy wagon and carted off.
There are a few differences, of course. The brigade attacking White Plume's field weren't carrying swords -- they had machine guns. They didn't kill anyone -- this time -- they just chopped down the plants. They decided not to kidnap (arrest) White Plume, thankfully.
The most important difference is that they and their weaponry went free. There were no enforcers to round them up, no paddy wagon to take them away. The knights were the enforcers. It's against the law to grow hemp without a permit, and the government isn't issuing any. There's a war on drugs, and even industrial hemp, which isn't a drug, is contraband, off limits, a target for the paramilitary drug war industrial complex.
But suppose people from some other place, some other world, perhaps, came to visit, people who didn't know anything about the drug war, examining our society and our culture with a perspective unclouded from having grown up in it. Suppose they saw the team of paramilitaries cut down the hemp field, guns in hand, airplanes and helicopters in tow. What would be their reaction?
Would they think this was a sensible response to the problem of substance abuse and addiction, a reasoned strategy to reduce social pathologies and improve the health and well-being of Americans?
Or would they ask, who are these lunatics, why are they chopping down this family's field, and why isn't the government protecting people from them?
But unlike in the Monty Python movie, the authorities don't step in to restore sanity at the end of the show. This is the United States, people are making money eradicating non-psychoactive hemp, among other things, and they intend to continue doing so for as long as they can.
All reason up in smoke. No hemp for the Oglala. The drug war.