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Navajo Nation lawmaker warns further action needed on hemp






Speaker LoRenzo Bates of the Navajo Nation Council. Photo from Navajo Nation Council

The Navajo Nation is indeed interested in hemp but further action will be needed before any crops can be planted, tribal officials said on Tuesday.

Navajo Agricultural Products Industry has engaged in "exploratory" talks about hemp, CEO Wilton Charley confirmed. But he said no agreements have been signed.

"We have had exploratory discussions with CannaNative that resulted in actions that need to be resolved before we consider any type of initial agreements," Charley said in a press release, referring to CannaNative, a cannabis development firm.

Speaker LoRenzo Bates of the Navajo Nation Council also warned that further legislative action will be needed. Although lawmakers in 2000 made a key change to the definition of "marijuana" in Title 17 of the Navajo Nation Code, he said they haven't legalized hemp production on the reservation.


Title 17 of the Navajo Nation defines marijuana as "Cannabis plants that contain an amount equal to or more than one and four-tenths percent (1.4%) tetrahydrocannabinol." Source: Navajo Nation Council

"Any such action to produce hemp would require the Navajo Nation Council to amend the current statute and there has been no discussion of doing so," Bates said.

Title 17 of the Navajo Nation defines "marijuana" as "Cannabis plants that contain an amount equal to or more than one and four-tenths percent (1.4%) tetrahydrocannabinol." The change was made in July 2000, The Navajo Times reported at the time.

The language recognizes that hemp does not contain enough tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, to provide the same psychoactive or "high" that comes from marijuana. But the provision does not make hemp production legal on the reservation, according to Bates.

Even if it did, the tribe would still have to contend with federal law, which does not recognize the difference. Authorities raided a hemp farm on the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin a year ago and repeatedly shut down a hemp farm on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in the 2000s.

In March, a federal judge lifted an injunction affecting hemp production at Pine Ridge. A shift in Department of Justice policy and changes in federal law led to the ruling.

But the Menominee Nation in May lost a lawsuit in which it sought to be treated in a manner similar to states when it comes to hemp production.

Hemp has multiple uses and can be used in food, clothing and other items.

Relevant Documents:
Department of Justice Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country (October 2014)

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