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Navajos Amend Marijuana Regulations

Navajos Amend Marijuana Regulations
October 12
14:53 2020

Navajos Amend Marijuana Regulations

 

Plans to turn Shiprock into a marijuana metropolis may be going up in smoke.

Council Chambers in Window Rock

The Navajo Nation Council passed Resolution CS-76-20, which amends the Navajo Nation Criminal Code to clarify the legal definition of “marijuana,” and to allow for the civil forfeiture of property, for individuals found liable for offenses related to the possession, manufacturing, transportation, sale, use, trade, or delivery of marijuana. The new provisions also require Navajo Nation officials convicted of violating marijuana offenses to forfeit employment or elected office.

The bill passed council by a 16-4 vote and was signed into law by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer.

Former Navajo presidential candidate Dineh Benally seemed to flout tribal norms by operating several greenhouses that produce hemp in the Shiprock area.

Farmers should be able to grow whatever crops they want, said Benally, who is president of the San Juan River farm board.

Benally has three large greenhouses – in Shiprock, Hogback and Gaadahi – that grow hemp. Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen McPaul has filed a lawsuit against Benally over this enterprise.

The farms belong to individuals, not the Navajo Nation or chapters, Benally argues.

But hemp has been a controversial topic on the Navajo reservation.

Mr. Benally (Facebook)

A bill on hemp-growing was, sponsored by the late Ervin Keeswood, was passed in 2000 and signed into law by former President Kelsey Begaye.

However the move was largely symbolic as hemp was considered a controlled substance and banned under federal law.

Two decades later their dreams are coming true, according to Benally.

The farm board president is making “creative” arguments, said Charles Galbraith, who is representing the tribal government in its suit against Benally.

While President Donald Trump and Congress removed hemp from its list of controlled substance, the Navajo Nation has not, Galbraith said.

The bottom line is that the farm board can’t overrule the Navajo Nation Council, Galbraith said.

The 2000 Navajo legislation declared that marijuana consisted of 1.4 ounces of THC or above. Anything with less THC was classified as hemp.

However federal regulations were later tightened so hemp could only contain 0.3 THC.

The Navajo Nation had not amended its laws to be incompliance with federal law.

“With this resolution, we are sending a clear message to all Navajo Nation residents and visitors, officials, and those in elected office that you will be held accountable for possessing, manufacturing, transporting, selling, using, trading, and delivering marijuana on the Navajo Nation,” Nez said.

Under the definitions of “controlled substances,” marijuana is now defined as “all parts of the plant cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin, containing any amount of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Such term excludes any part of the plant cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis produced or delivered in accordance with an industrial hemp regulatory system approved by the Navajo Nation Council or pursuant to the pilot project created by CJN-24-19 and any extensions.” Under Resolution CJN-24-19, which was approved by the Council in June 2019, the Navajo Nation authorized Navajo Agricultural Products Industry to conduct a hemp pilot project with New Mexico State University under the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill.

THC is the ingredient in hemp that causes a “high.”

 

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