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No, Virginia, there is no legal hemp on Nation


A company growing hemp on the Navajo Nation has jumped the gun.

That’s according to President Jonathan Nez, who said in an exclusive interview with the Navajo Times Tuesday that the Native American Agriculture Company, run by Congressional candidate Dineh Benally, does not have permission from the tribe to grow and market hemp.

Karen Ellsworth, who is handling marketing for the company, told the Times last week the company has contracted with farmers in the Shiprock area to grow 300 acres of cannabis under the authority of the Shiprock Farm Board.

After the article came out, Ellsworth said she did not know the interview was on the record and the 300 acres was “just a number I threw out.” However, sources in the Shiprock area confirm there is hemp being grown on the Nation.

Nez said the company appears to be using the 2018 Farm Bill, which deregulated hemp, as the authority to grow it, but the Navajo Nation still needs to put regulations in place for the close relative of marijuana.

The only difference between hemp and marijuana is the content of THC, the psychoactive component that gives marijuana users a “high.” Hemp has less than three percent THC.

“The recent farm bill indicates that tribes do have the sovereign ability to regulate hemp production,” Nez said. “The fact that we do not yet have rules in place does not mean that it is legal for anyone to grow it.”

About The Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at


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