Navajo Nation police issued the warning Wednesday after confirming that officers were investigating complaints about marijuana or hemp being grown near the northwestern New Mexico community of Shiprock.
Police Chief Phillip Francisco says his department has turned over its findings to tribal prosecutors for further review.
Police say the fields found near Shiprock were connected to a business called “Navajo Gold,” but they could not find a valid license for the operation. Navajo lawmakers haven’t passed any legislation that would allow for growing hemp or marijuana for industrial production or distribution.
Here’s a story about the launch of the business dated from October 2019
DESPITE PREZ’S WARNING, HEMP STORE OPENS IN SHIPROCK
CHINLE, N.M. — The Navajo Nation’s first hemp products store opened in Shiprock Thursday and the Native American Agriculture Company (NAAC) has no intention of backing down in spite of a warning from President Jonathan Nez Tuesday that growing hemp on the Navajo Nation is illegal.
Dineh Benally, who heads both the NAAC and the San Juan River Farm Board, stated in a press release issued late Thursday night that the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill and Navajo Nation law both allow for hemp cultivation, and the company intends to continue and expand production.
“After the success of last year’s pilot program, we stepped up production for 2019 and plan to produce more going into 2020,” Benally stated.
According to Benally, hemp production has been legal on the Navajo Nation since 2000, when the Navajo Nation Council passed a resolution distinguishing between hemp and marijuana.
At the time, hemp was considered cannabis with less than 1.4 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient. The 2018 Farm Bill lowered that amount to 0.3 percent, and the Council adopted that change last year.
Both the 2000 and 2018 resolutions state, “The enactment of this resolution does not authorize the cultivation, growth, possession, development or propagation of industrial hemp until the Navajo Nation creates a regulatory system for industrial hemp and obtains the necessary and applicable permits for industrial hemp.”
In the press release, Benally contends the San Juan River Farm Board, acting as a unit of the Navajo Nation government, developed the regulations.
Nez said Tuesday the farm board is not authorized to act as a proxy for the tribe.
According to Karen Ellsworth, who is in charge of marketing for the NAAC, the hemp products being sold at the store are not derived from hemp grown on the Navajo Nation, although that is the eventual plan.