Once the U.S. Department of Justice gave Native American tribes the green light in 2014 to cultivate marijuana on tribal lands, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe hired Monarch America (OTCQB: BTFL), a consulting firm based in Colorado, to help launch a marijuana resort.
Eric Hagen, Monarch’s CEO, and Jonathan Hunt, Monarch’s vice president of cultivation, consulted with the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe; however, on Nov. 7, 2015, the tribe burned its first marijuana crop in fear of a federal raid, as well as legal questions regarding the origin of the tribe’s cannabis seeds.
On Aug. 3, 2016, Hagen and Hunt were charged with conspiracy to possess marijuana, with Hagen’s charge for more than 10 pounds and Hunt’s charge for up to a pound.
While Hunt pleaded guilty on Aug. 15 to one count of drug conspiracy in the city of Flandreau, Hagen pleaded not guilty on all charges.
“I am yet unaware of any evidence, any evidence, that my client possessed even a gram of marijuana,” said Mike Butler, Hagen’s attorney. “The marijuana belonged to the Santee Sioux Tribe. They paid for it. They had legal ownership of it at all times. Mr. Hagen never had possession, actual or constructed, of the marijuana alleged in this case.”
According to court documents, in August 2015, Hunt bought seeds for 55 strains of marijuana from a seed company in the Netherlands, which where then put into CD cases, sewn into t-shirts and mailed to the tribe in South Dakota. By October 2015, the tribe had planted 30 strains of marijuana, all of which the tribe destroyed on Nov. 7, 2015.
As of now, the prosecution is recommending probation for Hunt who will be sentenced on Dec. 19, 2016, but Hagen’s case could affect Hunt’s sentencing date.
According to Argus Leader, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley will not file charges against any members of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe.
“To some degree the tribe has become a victim in this instance,” Jackley said.