Charges have been filed against two members of the Navajo Nation for allegedly cultivating marijuana illegally on the largest Native American reservation in the United States. This development is part of an ongoing case that has involved accusations of forced labor. Tribal prosecutors made the announcement on Thursday, stating that Dineh Benally, a Navajo businessman, and Farley BlueEyes, a farmer, were involved in a large-scale marijuana growing operation in and around Shiprock, New Mexico.

The arraignment for the charges is scheduled for late January. In 2020, Benally faced interference charges after a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction were issued by a Navajo judge to halt operations at the farms in northwestern New Mexico. However, the interference charges were dismissed in December. Benally's attorney, David Jordan, believes the new charges are a form of harassment. Benally maintains that he was cultivating hemp and has chosen not to provide further comment.

In 2020, a marijuana operation near Shiprock gained attention when local law enforcement discovered Chinese immigrant workers trimming marijuana in motel rooms in a nearby community. As a result, federal, state, and tribal authorities conducted raids on the farms and destroyed a quarter-million plants.

Recently, New Mexico regulators revoked Benally's license for another growing operation in central New Mexico. The Native American Agricultural Development Co., under Benally's management, had committed numerous violations at a farm in Torrance County. Inspectors found approximately 20,000 mature plants on the property, which exceeded the allowed number by four times, as stated in the license.

The license revocation order issued by New Mexico's Cannabis Control Division highlighted several other violations. While investigations by state and federal authorities continue, no criminal charges have been filed in those jurisdictions.

President Buu Nygren of the Navajo Nation emphasized that no one is exempt from the law within their communities. Under his administration, anyone who intends to harm the Navajo Nation or its people will be held accountable, regardless of their identity or position.

Benally and his associates are facing a lawsuit from a group of Chinese immigrant workers who were allegedly coerced into working long hours trimming marijuana on the Navajo Nation farms. The workers claim they were enticed to northern New Mexico under false pretenses. Despite federal and tribal laws prohibiting marijuana cultivation on the reservation, Benally, a former Navajo Nation presidential candidate, allegedly disregarded these regulations. To evade law enforcement attention, he purportedly instructed his associates and the workers to refer to the illegal substance as "hemp."