Benally banned from Pine Ridge

WINDOW ROCK

Dineh Benally has tried to continue his cannabis operations on the Pine Ridge Reservation and has been banned, according to tribal members.

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This photo purportedly shows Dineh Benally, second from left, and his associates meeting outside the Pine Ridge Reservation after he was banned.

As Shiprock and the Navajo Nation continue to clean up the mess Benally left after months of cultivating 57,950 pounds of hemp and alleged marijuana valued at approximately $1.8 billion, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe are reporting that Benally has been on their reservation trying to do the same thing.

“We got (Dineh) Benally banned from our reservation about a month ago,” said an Oglala Sioux tribal member who declined to be identified, who worked to get his tribe to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana on the reservation.

The request to ban a person goes before the 19-member tribal council. The tribal member said one council representative presents legislation to ban the person and they take a vote.

Last March, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe passed a referendum to legalize medical and recreational marijuana on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. A few months after this vote the tribe passed ordinances to regulate the possession and use of marijuana.

The ordinance permits tribal members to cultivate and dispense cannabis, and also allows for the establishment of social consumption facilities – which may be accessed by both tribal members and non-members.

“We made national news because we were the first tribe to legalize in a state that’s not yet legal,” the tribal member said.

Due to COVID-19, Navajo Nation courts haven’t set a hearing on Benally’s case.

Chief of Police Phillip Francisco, who spent months dealing with Benally’s farms in Shiprock, had heard that Benally was setting his sights on the Pine Ridge Reservation and warned the tribe to look at what Benally had done on Navajo before moving forward with any partnership with him.

“I would do some research of what happened here,” advised Francisco. “With the illegal circumventing of the laws, utilizing land without permission, and the potential for criminal activity to come along with such an operation.”

Both Francisco and the tribal member said they have information that Benally has approached other tribes as well.

Last week, the new San Juan River Farm Board, of which Benally was the president when it approved his hemp operation, passed a resolution recommending the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Northern Agency, Division of Natural Resources and the Navajo Nation Council’s Resource and Development Committee cancel 32 land-use permits because permit holders allowed cannabis farming on their permits in defiance of Navajo Nation law, which prohibits hemp production except for an experimental field at the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry.

Neither Dineh Benally nor his attorney, David Jordan, responded to an email requesting comment.

Tom Garrity of the Garrity Group, a PR firm based in Albuqerque that did public relations for Benally’s companies, said his work with Benally ended last October.


About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council and Office of the President and Vice President. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at abecenti@navajotimes.com. Follow her on Twitter at @abecenti

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