SHIPROCK, N.M. (KRQE) – Navajo Nation farmers are calling for help, saying their land is being used to create dozens of illegal hemp farms without their permission. Community members are saying there’s a slew of problems with these hemp farms: from not getting permission from the Navajo Nation, not being regulated, and saying it’s also causing environmental problems. “We’re here to protect our kids, we need to get Dineh Benally and his cannabis farms out,” said Navajo Nation protesters.
A movement is growing within the Navajo Nation over recent hemp farms popping up on their land in Shiprock all the way up to Farmington. Sky News 13 shows dozens of greenhouses along the river, even right across the street from the high school. Bea Redfeather shared recent photos showing the construction of greenhouses near homes. “This ain’t Dineh Benally’s land, this ain’t Dineh Benally’s land,” said a protester in one video.
Farmers and community members are claiming these hemp farms are illegal and they’re pointing the finger at the Navajo Nation San Juan Regional Farm Board President, Dineh Benally. Benally is accused of taking over these farmlands without the proper permits or regulations to grow hemp as well as unlawfully issuing Navajo land use permits to a foreign company to grow hemp on Navajo land.
“The community members have been intimidated, harassed, bullied,” said a Navajo Nation woman who doesn’t want to be identified. “The strong odor in the air has disrupted the livelihood of our animals, our livestock.”
The woman KRQE News 13 spoke with lives on the Navajo Nation and said their land is being taken over. “They are intruding into our natural resources by illegally pumping out water from the San Juan River and using it for their own purposes,” said the woman.
There are also concerns of a spike in non-Navajo people living on Navajo land to work on these farms. People said these hemp farms are affecting hundreds of families and now they’ve taken this fight to court.
“What Dineh Benally is doing is not regulated, nothing about his operation is done legally, nothing has been done the right way,” said Bea Redfeather. “We want the unwelcome guests to totally leave, we don’t want them on our farms.”
KRQE News 13 reached out to Benally but did not hear back. On Thursday, the Shiprock District Court will hear arguments from the Navajo Nation requesting to have a temporary restraining order and injunction on the hemp farm operations.