South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, right, announces charges against two Colorado for conspiracy to grow marijuana. Eric Hagen and Jonathon Hunt assisted the assisted the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in South Dakota with its marijuana venture.

Charges Filed Against Men Assisting Santee Sioux Marijuana Venture

Sarah Sunshine Manning

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley announced Wednesday charges against two men who assisted the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in growing a crop of marijuana for a proposed marijuana resort.

Eric Hagen and Jonathon Hunt, both executives of a Colorado-based marijuana company, Monarch America, Inc., are charged with conspiracy to grow marijuana.

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe contracted with Monarch America back in 2015 after the tribe legalized marijuana. The tribe’s legalization came on the heels of the Cole Memorandum, which was released by the Department of Justice in late 2014.

The memorandum outlined marijuana legalization for federally recognized tribes, and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe became the first tribe to embark on legalization, quickly receiving national attention.

With the assistance of Hagen and Hunt, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe began growing over 50 strains of marijuana plants in September of 2015. The tribe planned to open up the first-ever marijuana resort on Dec 31, 2015. However, plans were scrapped upon receiving threats of a federal raid.

On November 7, 2015, the project came to a complete halt as the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe burned their marijuana crop.

RELATED: Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Burns Crop, Suspends Marijuana Operation

In a November 2015 press release following the burn, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Attorney, Seth Pearman, stated that “the tribe will continue to consult with the federal and state governments, and hopes to be granted parity with states that have legalized marijuana.”

The Flandreau Santee Sioux still plan to invest in pot.

“The Tribe intends to successfully participate in the marijuana industry, and tribal leadership is undaunted by this brief sidestep,” Pearman wrote.

Less than a year after the marijuana project was suspended, charges against Hagen and Hunt were announced in a press conference in Flandreau, South Dakota last week.

Eric Hagen, former president of Monarch America, was indicted on one count each of possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana, conspiracy to possess more than 10 pounds of marijuana, and attempted possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana.

Jonathan Hunt, vice president of Monarch America, has been charged with conspiracy to possess marijuana.

Jackley told ICTMN that while the tribe may have the authority to legalize marijuana for tribal members within the jurisdictional boundaries of the reservation, non-tribal members have no authority to possess or conspire to grow cannabis in the state.

“When you look at this plan, though, this went beyond enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe,” said Jackley. “This went beyond the borders of the tribe when you put together an open plan about consumption, about producing an upwards of 300 pounds of marijuana a month and that consumption would involve consumption lounges that has impaired driving, that creates public safety issues, along with literally busing our college kids to smoke marijuana.”

According to the investigation, the marijuana seeds were obtained illegally and concealed during shipment, violating state and federal law. Jackley also says that the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is, to some degree, a victim in this case.

“The relationship between the state of South Dakota and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is very important to me, as well as the state,” says Jackley. “We’ve had good conversations with the tribe. Those conversations are going to continue.”

Jackley also stated that the funds given to Monarch America, Inc. should be returned to the tribe.

“There has been a considerable amount of funds that could have gone to better reasons and should have gone to better reasons,” said Jackley. “My position as the Attorney General is that those should be tribal funds, and should be returned, whether it be a restitutionary reward, or otherwise.”

Paul Lewis, Moody County states attorney, stated that the indictment is not against the tribe, which sits within the boundaries of Moody County.

“This indictment is a clarion call – to reconsider their efforts moving forward with an adult playground for marijuana ingestion,” says Lewis.

The investigation is ongoing, and charges against Hagen and Hunt are pending. Their court dates are set for August 15.

Tribal officials as well as Pearman did not immediately respond to ICTMN’s request for comment.

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