WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities on the largest Native American reservation in the U.S. have charged two tribal members with illegally growing marijuana on the Navajo Nation, marking just the latest development in a years-long case that also has involved allegations of forced labor.
Tribal prosecutors announced the charges Thursday, claiming that Navajo businessman Dineh Benally and farmer Farley BlueEyes had operated a massive marijuana growing operation in and around Shiprock, New Mexico. The two men were expected to be arraigned on the charges in late January, prosecutors said.
Benally had previously been charged for interference with judicial proceedings after a Navajo judge granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in 2020 that was aimed at halting operations at the farms in northwestern New Mexico.
David Jordan, an attorney who has represented Benally, said the interference charges were dismissed in December as those cases were set to go to trial.
“It very much feels like harassment,” he said of the latest legal maneuvering.
Jordan, who is expected to also represent Benally on the new charges, said Benally maintains he was growing hemp and declined to comment further.
No telephone listing was found for BlueEyes, and the tribe’s Department of Justice said no one has entered a formal appearance on behalf of him.
The marijuana operation near Shiprock began making headlines in 2020 when local police found…