Hemp in White Earth:

Hemp in White Earth:

 Mentioning cannabis on the White Earth reservation usually provides one of two different responses—either curiosity or loathing. Conversely, lack of truthful understanding on both ends promotes misused or incorrect facts. Therefore, it is the goal of this article to fully inform readers about medical marijuana and hemp; including what the future holds for this plant on the White Earth Reservation.

Marijuana, scientific name cannabis sativa, has played a historical role in medical treatment for thousands of years. Though its recreational use is still illegal in most of the United States, many states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.  Minnesota became one of 23 states, along with the District of Columbia, to legalize medical marijuana in May of 2014. The chemical compound that induces psychoactive effects is tetrahydrocannibinal (THC), Marijuana typically has a THC concentration of 5-25%.

Hemp is often misunderstood as a drug because of its relation to marijuana. Hemp is the same plant species (cannabis sativa) as marijuana, the only difference is THC concentration. Hemp is defined as having a THC concentration of 0.3% or less. Any amount less than 2% THC will not produce a “high” effect. Therefore, one cannot achieve any psychoactive effects from hemp.

Hemp has a variety of uses including,

  • Medical: CBD, cannabidiol, (a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant that is extracted from the plant leaves) has been shown in studies to help aid arthritis, lymph node troubles and other health problems such as cancer.
  • Nutrition: hemp seeds are rich in minerals and can provide 73 percent of a person’s daily value of protein.
  • Industrial materials: hemp has incredible textile strength, creating a great thread for clothing, strings, concrete-like blocks, rope and other insulation products.

In 2017, the Hemp grown in White Earth will be in accordance with the Federal Controlled Substances Import and Export Act and the Federal Agricultural Act of 2014 (“2014 Farm Bill”) which allows permissible growth of industrial hemp and distribution of its seed in Minnesota limited to the activities by Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) through their pilot program. The White Earth Natural Resource Department (WENRD) and the MDA have a signed MOU and both departments are compliant to all statutes in the Minnesota Industrial Hemp Development Act, Minnesota Statues Section 18K.09, which authorizes the MDA to develop an industrial hemp pilot program in Minnesota. WENRD will be planting our hemp crop in Callaway, MN on a 12-acre plot. They are running two research variety trials; one for hemp grain oil and one for hemp fiber.

The hemp oil trial is working in collaboration with the University of Minnesota. White Earth is one location of a 5-location trial in Minnesota. WENRD will be working with professor Dr. George Weiblenwho has studied hemp in Minnesota for the last twelve years. Growing hemp is a learning curve because hemp has not been grown legally in decades. The collaboration with the U of MN will provide some expertise as well as equipment sharing that will help White Earth grow a successful hemp crop. WENRD will initiate, plant, and maintain field trials of up to 12 varieties of imported industrial hemp. The oil trial will consist of six-row plots (6’ X 10’ each) with four replicates per variety in a randomized block design. The goal of this research is to find the hemp variety that grows the best in our climate.

The White Earth Technical and Community College (WETCC) will administer the hemp “fiber” trial. WETCC will be testing for stalk strength, plant height, yield and fiber consistency for using hemp stalks as a building material. This trial will be larger, using 5 hemp varieties at 1.5 acres per variety.

Economic Development Division, WENRD, WETCC, and the White Earth Tribal Council are all working together to see what the future holds for hemp production in White Earth. White Earth Secretary Treasurer Tara Mason is excited to be a part of this long awaited initiative and expects many positive things to come in the near future. We can build our economy and hopefully bring more jobs to White Earth while growing a naturally organic crop that has infinite possibilities; green building materials, remediation of the soil to pull out harmful pesticides and contaminants, produce medicinal products, produce oil and food products etc.

But this year we are remaining focused on the research element to see which varieties are worth pursuing for future years as well as learning how to grow a successful hemp crop. Our hemp field day is set at August 23rd from 10am-2pm in our Callaway field. Save the date and contact Zachary Paige if you are interested in becoming more involved in the hemp program or have questions:

 by Zachary Paige


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