Charges filed in marijuana grow facility on tribal grounds

Published: Aug. 3, 2016 at 9:28 AM CDT
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Two consultants who helped a South Dakota Native American tribe sow its first crop as it sought to develop the nation's first marijuana resort have been charged with drug crimes.

Attorney General Marty Jackley said Wednesday that Eric Hagen and Jonathan Hunt have been charged with a range of marijuana possession charges.

According to South Dakota Attorney General Marty, Hagen, 34, of Sioux Falls, has been indicted on several felony counts by a Moody County grand jury. In addition, Hunt, 43, of Colorado, has been charged by criminal complaint, though Jackley says he is cooperating with the investigation.

The charges come eight months after the Flandreau Santee Sioux destroyed the marijuana crop they had been growing on tribal land under the guidance of Hagen and Hunt's company, Monarch America. The tribe cited federal concerns about the project that led them to fear a raid.

Upwards of 600 marijuana plants once grew in Flandreau under Monarch America's watch. But Jackley says the company didn't fully disclose to the tribe how it was operating -- including how it purchased and shipped marijuana seeds from the Netherlands to South Dakota.

"The seeds were purchased in a way that they were packaged separately on 10 different deliveries. They were concealed at times in CD cases, in the backs of CD cases; other times they were concealed by being sewn in T-shirts," said Jackley.

And while all those plants were destroyed, the seeds were not.

"That clearly violated both federal and state law and should be turned over to law enforcement," said Jackley.

Jackley says this is in no way an indictment against the tribe. He says ,to some degree, the tribe has become a victim

"My position as Attorney General is those should be tribal funds that should be returned, whether that be restitutionary award or otherwise," said Jackley.

As of right now, the future of the the marijuana on the Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation is up in the air.

Jackley had warned that legal changes that appeared to clear the way for tribes to grow marijuana wouldn't protect non-tribal members and wouldn't apply to non-tribal land.

Hagen is charged with one count of felony conspiracy to possess more than ten pounds of marijuana, one felony count of possession of more than ten pounds of marijuana, and one felony count of attempted possession of more than ten pounds of marijuana. The first two counts are each punishable by up to ten years in prison, while the third is punishable by up to 7.5 years in prison.

The complaint filed against Hunt is for conspiracy to possess marijuana. The lesser charge is in exchange for his cooperation and assistance to law enforcement.

Jackley says Hunt is expected to plead to one count of conspiracy to possess more than one-half pound but less than one pound of marijuana, punishable by up to 2 years in the state penitentiary. Hunt is scheduled to enter a plea on August 15, 2016.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)