The Navajo Nation has filed suit against 33 farmers for allegedly violating tribal law by growing hemp, marijuana, or both in the area of Shiprock, New Mexico, which the Nation says is a violation of Navajo law. The Navajo Department of Justice filed the suit in the Shiprock Judicial District on October 28.
A press release states that the Navajo Nation “alleges that these defendants possess or control Navajo lands that are being used to illegally grow, produce, manufacture, transport or sell industrial hemp and/or marijuana. These actions… are irreparably injuring and contaminating the nation’s lands, waters, and other natural resources.”
“Despite legislation that clearly illegalizes hemp and marijuana on the Navajo Nation,” Navajo Attorney General Doreen McPaul said, “many farmers have chosen to jeopardize their farms and the health of the community by growing and producing hemp and marijuana for personal gain. These individuals have substantially injured the community and the Nation, as a whole, by illegally drilling wells to water their hemp and marijuana plants, by illegally dumping and burying solid waste, by carelessly storing and applying hazardous pesticides on their lands, and installing ill-constructed septic tanks that are leaking sewage into our lands and groundwater.”
Last June, the Navajo Nation filed a previous lawsuit against tribal member and local farm board president Dineh Benally to stop his hemp and/or marijuana farming from occurring on or in any other way affecting tribal lands. That action resulted in a Navajo court-ordered injunction that blocked Benally and his associates from growing or cultivating hemp on Nation soil.
“Since then, the Navajo Nation Police Department has worked tirelessly to enforce the injunction,” the new suit’s press release states, “but individual farmers have continued to grow, harvest and transport hemp and/or marijuana.”
Earlier this month, the Navajo even passed a resolution explicitly outlawing hemp itself, in addition to all other individual parts of the plant.
The 2018 Farm Bill empowered indigenous tribes to undertake and oversee hemp production if they chose to do so, free of U.S. government interference. To date, the US Department of Agriculture says more than 30 tribes have announced plans to get into the hemp game. The Navajo Nation has repeatedly made it clear that they have no intention to be one of them.