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Man testifies in his own trial in marijuana resort case

FLANDREAU, S.D. (AP) — A man on trial for his alleged role in a marijuana grow room on the Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation testified Tuesday that he had visited the facility just three times, as prosecutors tried to tie him to day-to-day management of the operation.

Eric Hagen, president of Monarch America, worked with the Santee Sioux Tribe on its operation about 45 miles north of Sioux Falls, after the Justice Department cleared the way for Indian tribes to grow and sell marijuana under the same conditions as some states that have legalized pot.

The tribe ultimately destroyed its crop in November 2015 after federal officials signaled a potential raid. Hagen and fellow consultant Jonathan Hunt were charged about nine months later. Hagen, 34, of Sioux Falls, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to possess, possession and attempted possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana.

Hagen testified Tuesday that when the tribe destroyed the crop in 2015, he walked away, according to the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/2qTkf7R ).

When tribal leaders initially touted their plan to open the resort on tribal land in Flandreau, President Anthony Reider said they wanted it to be “an adult playground.” They projected as much as $2 million in monthly profits, with ambitious plans that included a smoking lounge with a nightclub, bar and food service, and eventually an outdoor music venue. They planned to use the money for community services and to provide income to tribal members.

Hagen testified Tuesday that Monarch’s agreement with the tribe was limited only to the grow facility, and had nothing to do with the smoke lounge. Hagen said Monarch did business with other tribes, but he also admitted that both Monarch and the Flandreau Santee Sioux stood to make money if the marijuana resort idea took off.

The jury is expected to get the case Wednesday after closing arguments.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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