Despite uncertainty over its legality, a Northwest Wisconsin Chippewa tribe is set to start growing hemp to turn into an oil used to treat seizures and other medical conditions.
The St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin would be the first of the state’s 11 tribes — but likely not the last — to try to grow hemp to make cannabidiol, or CBD, more available to treat some medical conditions and to provide jobs.
A 2014 Wisconsin law made use of the oil legal to treat some medical conditions. Changes to the law in 2017 made the oil more accessible with certification from a doctor saying that it would be used for a medical condition.
But the oil has remained difficult to obtain, with consumers often having to travel to states like Minnesota, where it was legalized, or have it mailed to them.
“Families need a safe, reliable distributor of cannabidiol and the Tribe’s willingness to serve in that capacity is absolutely critical right now,” said tribal council member Elmer Emery, while adding that the operation will also provide “much needed jobs and industry in a county with one of the highest unemployment rates in the State.”
Some of the state’s 10 other tribes could start up their own hemp-growing operations in the future to get in on an industry that some analysts say could generate $1.8 billion in sales a year nationwide by 2020.
Jeff Cormell, the tribe’s lawyer, said at least one other Wisconsin tribe is on a similar trajectory as the St. Croix Chippewa for starting a CBD production program, but he declined to name the tribe.
The tribe says it’s complying with federal and state laws, but it’s unclear if the state