Navajo Nation Figures Charged in Marijuana Cultivation Case Unveil New Chapter in Ongoing Legal Battle

Navajo Nation Figures Charged in Marijuana Cultivation Case Unveil New Chapter in Ongoing Legal Battle

In a recent development reported by the Navajo-Hopi Observer, two prominent members of the Navajo Nation, Dineh Benally and Farley BlueEyes, find themselves formally charged with the illegal cultivation of marijuana. This unfolding case in Window Rock, Arizona, represents a significant chapter in a legal saga spanning several years, previously entangled with accusations of forced labor. Tribal prosecutors accused the duo on January 4th of operating a substantial marijuana growing operation in the vicinity of Shiprock, New Mexico. Both individuals are slated to face arraignment later this month.

Dineh Benally, a Navajo businessman, had previously faced charges in 2020 for allegedly interfering with judicial proceedings related to a Navajo judge’s order to halt marijuana farm operations in northwestern New Mexico. According to David Jordan, Benally’s attorney, the interference charges were dismissed in December as the case approached trial. Jordan, in a statement to the paper, deemed the latest charges as harassment, with Benally maintaining that he was cultivating hemp, not marijuana.

The controversy initially gained public attention in 2020 when local authorities discovered Chinese immigrant workers trimming marijuana in motel rooms near Shiprock. This discovery triggered raids by federal, state, and tribal authorities, resulting in the destruction of a quarter-million plants. Subsequently, a group of Chinese immigrant workers sued Benally and his associates, alleging forced labor and deception that lured them to New Mexico.

Adding to the legal complexities, Benally recently had his license for another growing operation in central New Mexico revoked by state regulators. The revocation was based on multiple violations, including the cultivation of a significantly higher number of plants than the license permitted.

Dineh Benally’s case is of particular note given his past role as a Navajo Nation presidential candidate who advocated for large-scale hemp farming as an economic opportunity. Reportedly campaigning under the slogan, “Let’s grow together,” the current legal challenges cast a shadow over his previous vision.

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