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Despite prez’s warning, hemp store open in Shiprock

Despite prez’s warning, hemp store open in Shiprock

CHINLE

The Navajo Nation’s first hemp products store opened in Shiprock Thursday and the Native American Agriculture Company 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.



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 cyurth@navajotimes.com.