Asian migrants are occupying illegal U.S. weeds to survive the pandemic, the BBC report shows

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Last November, it was announced that 60,000 pounds of illegal cannabis had been federally confiscated from cultivated areas in Shiprock, New Mexico, a tiny town in Navajo Nation territory. The farms, largely occupied by Chinese migrant farmers, were a source of outrage for the indigenous community, who claimed the land was being better used for its ancestral purpose: growing corn.

According to a report released this week by the BBC, many of the Chinese migrant workers who worked on Navajo land largely moved to various illegal pot farms in Oklahoma. The report also notes that large swaths of the unlicensed, China-run cannabis industry in the U.S. now relies on the labor of migrants made unemployed by the shutdown of restaurants, beauty baths, and tourism businesses as a result of the pandemic.

The Shiprock farms were operated by Dineh Benally, a President of the San Juan River Farm Board, and Taiwanese broker Irving Lin. Benally took advantage of several loopholes in tribal law to open up the farms. He said authorities were producing non-psychoactive hemp instead of high-THC marijuana. Even in states with legal medicinal or recreational cannabis, the plant is illegal in non-governmental Navajo Nation communities.

Recruiting was done in part through briefing sessions in Los Angeles conducted by Lin.

“Suddenly so many people are going there,” the real estate entrepreneur told the BBC. “Every day people look for a house and look for land in a very short time. 1,000 people were there in six months. ”

But when the Shiprock company filled the landscape with cannabis grow houses (possibly taking advantage of law enforcement’s lack of resources during the pandemic-era), the neighbors did not take development well.

“Corn is a sacred plant,” Bea Redfeather, a Shiprock resident, told Searchlight New Mexico in the synopsis of the local publication on the subject. “You can’t eat hemp and marijuana.” She and her community members began painting the farms, and the local media opened an investigation that eventually culminated in the November police raid known as Operation Navajo Gold.

The Shiprock workers escaped arrest after being questioned. However, many of them fled the site during the raid.

Operation Navajo Gold, however, barely stopped the illegal operations.

An anonymous farm worker identified only as “Xia” told the BBC that she had been promised 10 days of work in northern New Mexico for $ 200 a day with room and board. Little did Xia know that she was okay with cutting cannabis – she allegedly described the position as a “flower cutter” and conjured up images of rose cutting for the woman.

The illegal nature of their new gig finally became clear when police raided the Travel Inn where the migrant workers had lived and worked. The police took the women to prison, where they were released and fortunately not charged with any crime.

Xia briefly returned to California, but was soon on her way back to Oklahoma. Lin confirms that many Shiprock growers have moved their businesses there.

The inexpensive and unlimited number of marijuana business permits in Oklahoma makes Oklahoma an ideal place to start a cannabis grow – one that may or may not be subject to legal restrictions.

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