For Industrial Hemp Grower Alex White Plume, Sovereign Resolve Is Finally Paying Off
By Native Business Staff
Editor’s Note: This story is part of our feature, “Hemp Warrior”. Subscribe today to read this story in its entirety
All living things deserve respect,” says Alex White Plume, Oglala Lakota, who performs a ritual before each hemp harvest. “We tell the plant, ‘Thank you. We’re going to use you.’”
After 1998, when White Plume planted his first acres of hemp, thoughts kept him up at night: “Are we doing the harvest ceremonies right? Are we singing the right songs?” White Plume told Native Business Magazine.
His concern about cultivating hemp while honoring Lakota tradition turned into a living nightmare between 2000-2002 when dozens of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents raided his hemp fields on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Descending with “weed whackers,” they chopped the towering plants to the base of their stalks and ripped others up from the roots. “It gave us PTSD; it shocked us,” White Plume said. “They call it ‘eradicating.’ To us, it was theft of our property.”
Little did the agents know, the violent assault shook loose new seeds. “The DEA successfully replanted our field for us. We called it a DEA/FBI hemp field and used it as a tourist attraction for a while. People had a good laugh about it,” White Plume said.
DEA agents didn’t arrest White Plume or his family. Despite misperceptions, hemp is not classified as a drug. While it mirrors the marijuana plant in appearance, hemp does not contain high levels of the psychoactive chemical THC. Industrial hemp lends itself to three categories of products: fiber, seed, and cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp offers vital nutrients in food or supplement form.
While White Plume wasn’t thrown in jail, his battle to grow and process hemp was hardly over. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice obtained a permanent injunction against White Plume, banning him from planting hemp. A federal judge lifted the one-of-a-kind ban in 2016.
In spite of numerous legal setbacks and discrimination, White Plume remained steadfast in his mission—to raise industrial hemp to generate vital income for his family and tribal members on the most impoverished reservation in the United States.
“I live in the poorest community and the poorest county in America today. I was desperate to bring some type of economic development in, where we could use the land without destroying the land,” White Plume told Native Business Magazine.
For the White Plume family, that time has finally arrived.
The White Plume family has partnered with Evo Hemp to produce full-spectrum CBD extracts. The Boulder, Colorado-based Evo Hemp is known for its line of Hemp Bars sold in more than 3,000 retailers, including Whole Foods Markets and Kroger.
Today, anyone can purchase organic HempX Extract and HempX Capsules, made from White Plume’s organic, cannabinoid-rich hemp flower. His products are sold on EvoHemp.com, Walmart. com, and on the shelves of dozens of retailers across the country. “We’re hoping that it will be Wal-Mart brick and mortar stores soon,” Evo Hemp President Ari Sherman told Native Business Magazine.
“We decided to partner on 10 acres [of hemp] with Alex White Plume because with CBD [as opposed to fiber or seed], you need a lot fewer acres. Ten acres will produce well over a million dollars’ worth of industrial hemp,” Sherman said.
Evo Hemp brings a wealth of advantages to the table including a sales network of more than 100 people deployed across the country. The company’s products can be purchased in more than 3,000 retail stores including Kroger, Costco, Whole Foods Markets, and a number of small natural food chains. “We’re really hitting the mainstream consumer with our hemp products,” Sherman said.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2018 issue of Native Business Magazine.
Enjoying this article? Want to read more?
Enjoy the digital edition of Native Business Magazine for easy viewing on your phone tablet, or computer, each month!