Navajo Nation Files Lawsuit To Halt Illegal Hemp Operations

The Navajo Nation has filed a lawsuit in the District Court of the Navajo Nation, Judicial District of Shiprock, New Mexico, to stop illegal hemp operations from taking place on tribal land.

Attorney General Doreen N. McPaul on Wednesday announced the Navajo Nation’s filing of the lawsuit against Dineh Benally, the Native American Agricultural Company, and the Navajo Gold Company.

According to Navajo Nation allegations, the defendants are illegally licensing, growing, producing, manufacturing, transporting, and selling industrial hemp inside the Nation’s borders.

The Navajo Nation alleges that the defendants have been issuing land use permits to foreign entities to allow them to grow and cultivate industrial hemp on Navajo land.

The Navajo Nation Council and the Office of the President and Vice President have stated that producing industrial hemp is currently illegal in the Navajo Nation.

“The Nation has received numerous complaints, tips, and warnings about these illegal activities happening on Navajo lands,” says Attorney General McPaul. “It is unfortunate that in the middle of a global pandemic that has claimed too many of our relatives that the Nation is forced to take this action against one of our own, who seeks to enrich himself in blatant disregard for the laws of the Nation.”

The Navajo Nation has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the defendants from continuing their operations at the expense of the Navajo people and government.

The Navajo Nation Council amended the Navajo Nation Code in 2018 to expand the definition of cannabis, but determined that industrial hemp production would not be allowed until the Nation could create a regulatory system and obtain permits for it.

The Council has since granted authorization to the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) to conduct a hemp pilot research project to study the best hemp plants for cultivation in the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Nation recently extended the project for another year and added five acres to the cultivation area for the 2020 crop season.

According to the Navajo Nation, the project is exclusive to NMSU and NAPI, is in compliance with federal law, and does not permit the defendants named in the lawsuit to conduct their activities on the Nation’s lands.