Attorney Brad Bartlett on Hemp: “Properties that can help heal”

Interview by Paul DeMain
- News From Indian Country -

Paul DeMain: Tell where you’re coming from, and a little bit about what brings you to the Second Annual Hemp Conference, and tomorrow we start with indigenous farming. Who are you and why are you here?

Brad Bartlett: Sure. My name is Brad Bartlett. I’m an attorney from Denver, Colorado. I’m also an enrolled member of the Saulte Saint Marie Band of Chippewa. This is my second time at the Anishinaabe Hemp Conference. It’s very much an honor to be here. I’ve had a long time relationship with Winona LaDuke. She’s a friend of mine, but she’s also a person who I have tremendous admiration and respect for. So, it is very much an honor for me to be part of this conference and to be able to present.

Attorney Brad Bartlett presents information on hemp and marijuana laws and efforts to make sure that potential growers and producers understand the differences between, tribal, state, federal laws and regulations by various federal agencies at the annual Hemp Conference in Calloway, Minnesota this spring.                Photo by D.Kakkak

DeMain: What are you presenting? What, in regards to the potential for usage of hemp, and how does it tie into clean water or less fossil fuels?

Bartlett: Over 25 years ago, I spent a season or more living up here in the White Earth Reservation. That was a formative experience for me. It set me on a direction that I think I’ve set a course in my life that I’ve embraced, principles like environmental justice and clean air, clean water, healthy environment. I’ve spent my entire career working Indian country and primarily representing impacted communities. I’ve worked on issues like fighting coal fire power plants, fighting coal mines, oil and gas development, fighting uranium mining and milling, all representing impacted communities.

“I ran and managed two environmental, non-profit law firms. I spent time as a law professor at the University of Denver, where I ran the environmental law clinic there.

“Within the last four or five years is when I really came to a realization about cannabis. I’ve had a lifelong relationship with cannabis as a plant, starting when I was about 16. I have used it throughout my life for personal benefit, and when it became legal in the state of Colorado is when I really took a greater interest in it for me personally.

“It’s a magical plant. It has psychoactive properties. It has healing properties. It has therapeutic properties. It has properties that can benefit the land and the water. It’s by no means a panacea, I will tell you that. But, it has properties that, I think, will lend itself to helping us through this what for all intents and purposes is a crisis.

“We’re at a crossroads. Humanity is at a crossroads, and what we decide right here in the present is going to impact what happens to future generations. My kids, their kids, my great-great grandkids. So, it’s really important for me to think through the decisions I make in the here and now.

Bartlett: I think part and parcel that is to have a better relationship with sacred plants and sacred plant medicines. Especially those sacred plant medicines that have psychoactive properties and medicinal properties. We need to build a relationship with those plants and respect the fact that they are in fact sacred, and they can teach us things and have that relationship.

“When I work in the cannabis community, and I do work with both in Indian country and outside of Indian country, but I work on cannabis issues as they relate to industrial hemp, medical marijuana, but also adult-use marijuana.

“I don’t use the word recreational marijuana. I think that’s inappropriate, because it defiles the relationship with that plant, and I’ll be honest, even the increased commodification that we’ve seen of the cannabis plant by virtue of it’s legalization and hyper regulation, I think is doing damage to the plant. Even though I’m part of that regulatory environment and am a lawyer in that space, I have seen the impact it’s had on the plant, and I think it’s degraded the plant and has, in a way, impaired us to have a better relationship with it.

“So, I’m very much about thinking about how we can have a better relationship with this plant that has a multiplicity of benefit for us as a human species.”

DeMain: You find that same kind of relationship with things like water or air quality?

Bartlett:  Absolutely. So, I’ve spent a great deal of time doing, say litigation of over air quality issues and water quality issues. I represented the Yankton Sioux tribe in defending the interest of Standing Rock with the pipelines, but I’ve done air quality work, suing coal fire power plants.

“I recently filed a lawsuit against one of the biggest energy polluters on the planet, Peabody Energy Corporation, on behalf of Diné communities out of Navajo Nation to basically inject some accountability into their community’s disenfranchisement from nearly a half century of coal mining and coal burning out on Black Mesa.

“I do believe that it’s really important, but the defensive work is just not enough, right? It’s important, but you also have to find a way to give people an answer. What comes next?

“Winona used the term the next green economy, right, and I think we really have to think about that. What does next economy look like? I think it has to be cooperative and has to embrace sustainable principles of sustainability. That’s really important for us to do.

“Yes, the defensive work is important. It’s important to lend a voice to communities that have been impacted, that have been disenfranchised, but it’s equally as important to have a path forward for what things look like. I think part of that is having a better relationship with the earth and with these sacred plants and the stewardship of these plants.

"Hemp can offer us a lot of things. It is a versatile plant. We can make clothes out of it. We can make hempcrete. We can make medicines out of it in the form of CBD. It has other cannabinoids that will, I think, ultimately be determined to lend themselves to things that are ailing us from the contamination we are doing to the environment, and it also has this magical, psychoactive property through THC, tetrahydrocannabinol."

“Hemp can offer us a lot of things. It is a versatile plant. We can make clothes out of it. We can make hempcrete. We can make medicines out of it in the form of CBD. It has other cannabinoids that will, I think, ultimately be determined to lend themselves to things that are ailing us from the contamination we are doing to the environment, and it also has this magical, psychoactive property through THC, tetrahydrocannabinol.

“Learning how to interact with that plant in a way that’s meaningful is very important. At least it is for me. I think that’s why I have decided to move most of my focus and energy over into the brown wolf cannabis.

DeMain: Do you see a relationship or even the movement toward hemp and hemp products and farming as being diametrically opposed to the development of the fossil fuel industry Or how do you view that relationship between fossil fuels and what we’re doing with hemp?

Bartlett: Unfortunately, fossil fuels have become the scaffolding of modern industrial civilization. We have to find a way off of those fossil fuels in my lifetime, if we want to survive on this planet. I believe that.

“I think hemp is part of the answer. I don’t think anything is ... there’s no one answer for everything, but it is part of a solution, right, and a broader solution for us. Local agricultural practices embracing renewable energy and renewable energy technologies, reducing our footprint, our carbon footprint as much as we can. All these things can contribute to ending our dependency on the fossil energy system, and we have to end that codependency if we want to survive as a species on this planet. I truly believe that.

DeMain: My last question was going to be is if you had a message to the future subpoint about what we’re doing now, what would that be? You almost said it right there, in a way, but if you were to leave some legacy that someone would look at 100 years from now, what would you tell them about where were at right now?

Bartlett: The first thing I would say to future generations, and I think about this in the context of my daughter, is that first and foremost, I’m really sorry for what we’re doing right now in the present, to impact the world you’re going to live in, in the future.

“Where I’m from in Denver, Colorado, we have 20,000 oil and gas wells that sit on top of the city of Denver that cause enormous air pollution, and not only that, tremendous contamination of our land and water resources. I think when future generations look back at us and what is happening right now, they’re going to ask, “How did you let that happen? What did you do to try to stop that?”

“For me, I take it upon myself to be responsible for that. I try to use the position that I’m in as a lawyer to do good in this world however I can, whether that is injecting some accountability into regulatory processes, suing governments, suing big energy corporations, or embracing a new green economy, like hemp, right?

“It’s going to take all of these things in a community based effort to pull that out, and I’m hopeful we can do it. I don’t want to be unhopeful about that, although sometimes, it just seems the odds are so enormous that ... but who knows, right?

“There are people out there that give me a tremendous amount of hope. Winona LaDuke is one of those people, and I feel honored and blessed to have encountered her on my journey in this lifetime. There are others out there, too.

“So, if I can lend my voice, however small, to this, I’m just honored to be here and to do that.”


On The Net:
https://mcallistergarfield.com


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