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Jonathan Ellis provides an update from the Flandreau marijuana trial on the third day of testimony.

FLANDREAU – A prosecutor on Tuesday tried repeatedly to tie a consultant to the day-to-day management of a marijuana grow room on the Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation, but consultant Eric Hagen said he only visited the facility three times.

Hagen, the president of Monarch America, is on trial on state charges of conspiracy to possess more than 10 pounds of marijuana, possession of 10 pounds and the intent to possess 10 pounds or more. Hagen took the stand in his own defense Tuesday afternoon, defending himself from Assistant Attorney General Bridget Mayer in exchanges that were sometimes tense.

In one, Hagen explained that he had to break a meeting with Attorney General Marty Jackley in order to meet with U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler, the federal prosecutor whose office oversees Indian Country in South Dakota. Hagen said he tried twice to reschedule the meeting with Jackley, but never heard back. Mayer asked sarcastically if Hagen felt the attorney general of South Dakota was supposed to accommodate Hagen’s schedule.  

“I’m not trying to be combative,” Hagan responded. “I don’t know why you’re yelling at me.”

A grand jury indicted Hagen last year, nine months after the tribe abandoned its efforts to open a grow room and consumption facility. In June 2015, Monarch signed a consulting agreement with the tribe to help it build a marijuana grow facility, but Hagen said Tuesday that Monarch’s agreement with the tribe was limited exclusively to the grow facility and had nothing to do with a smoke lounge that the tribe planned to open.

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Eric Hagen faces marijuana possession and conspiracy charges in Moody County. The Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe hired Hagen to help set up a marijuana growing operation.
Wochit

Following the tribe’s decision to destroy the crop in November 2015, Hagen said he walked away from the project and had no idea he was a target of law enforcement until he leaned he had been indicted.

“You just sort of read it on the news like everybody else?” Defense lawyer Mike Butler asked.

“Right,” Hagen responded.

Mayer probed Hagen’s role with Monarch, a publicly traded company, as well as the tribe’s relationship as a shareholder in the company. Hagen explained that Monarch did business with other tribes, but he also admitted that both Monarch and the Flandreau Santee Sioux stood to make money if the Flandreau venture took off.

The defense has argued that Hagen did not possess the marijuana but that it belonged to the tribe, which had voted to legalize the drug. Tony Reider, the tribal chairman, testified earlier Tuesday that everything in the grow facility was tribal property.

Butler has also argued that Hagen can’t be guilty of a conspiracy, because Monarch was transparent with law enforcement, the community and lawmakers about the project.

Mayer repeatedly asked Hagen if he knew that marijuana is illegal in South Dakota. Hagen replied that he did.

The same issue came up when Mayer questioned Seth Pearman, the tribe’s general counsel.

Although the federal government relaxed its enforcement of drug laws in Indian Country, Mayer repeatedly clashed with Pearman over questions about tribal sovereignty and its relation to state law. Mayer repeatedly pressed Pearman about whether South Dakota had ever legalized marijuana.

“South Dakota did not legalize marijuana, did it?” she asked in one exchange.

“It did not,” Pearman responded, “but the tribe did.”
 

 

Previous coverage: Flandreau pot consultant was warned raid imminent

Under questioning by Butler, Pearman said the tribe began exploring the possibility of legalizing marijuana by following two U.S. Department of Justice memos that opened the door to tribal marijuana following votes in several states to legalize recreational and medical marijuana. The tribe visited marijuana businesses across the country before drafting an ordinance legalizing marijuana.

Pearman also said the tribe met with the U.S. attorney’s office, the Moody County state’s attorney and Jackley. During the meeting, Pearman said Jackley expressed concerns about people entering the reservation, consuming marijuana, and then leaving, raising the specter that they could be prosecuted. But Jackley never indicated that the tribe’s consultants who worked on the project could be targets of prosecution.

Pearman said he called the DEA to find out how the tribe could get seeds. He said he was told that the DEA followed the latest federal guidance on marijuana in Indian country. Pearman said that throughout the process, federal officials never officially gave their approval, but they did nod their approval.

“In this entire process there was never a green light,” Pearman said.

The jury is expected to begin deliberating Wednesday following jury instructions and closing arguments.

Previous coverage: Lawyer on Flandreau marijuana: ‘This was as well known as could possibly be’

 

 

 

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