Gov. remains mum on hemp bills

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At the midpoint of New Mexico’s legislative session, bills that would legalize hemp research are moving at a clip through both chambers. But the governor’s not saying whether she’ll sign bills that would establish rules for cultivating the plant and a research fund at a state university, and remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

Senate bill 6 has one more hearing in a House committee before it heads to the House floor for a final vote. The bill establishes a research and development fund at New Mexico State University and removes cannabis plants cultivated for industrial hemp from the definition of “marijuana” in the Controlled Substances Act.

The bill’s sponsor, Cisco McSorley, D Albuquerque, touts the economic benefits of researching hemp in the state. He said that farmers are losing out on the benefits of growing a crop that generates more than some 25,000 industrial products used globally.

A bill sponsored by Rick Little, R-Chaparral, House Bill 166, successfully cleared the House and now awaits two Senate committee hearings. Little’s bill would remove Hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed McSorley’s hemp legalization bill 2015.

That veto was due to difficulties it posed for regulating and law enforcement agencies, said her spokesman.

“For one, it contradicted state and federal law,” said Michael Lonergan. “Because of those contradictions, that would have created complications for law enforcement and the Department of Agriculture when regulating it. Also, given the similarities of growing hemp and marijuana, this bill would have created serious challenges for law enforcement when investigating drug crimes.”

New Mexico In Depth asked the governor’s spokesman for her likely action in light of the federal Agricultural Act of 2014. That legislation legalized hemp production for research purposes in states that passed laws making such activity legal. The Act limited the production to institutions of higher learning of state departments of agriculture, and provide for limited sales of hemp products within those states for research purposes.

He simply replied that the Governor will “take a close look at it.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 30 states have passed statutes allowing cultivation of hemp for research and development, or commercial purposes.

Although both are part of the same cannabis plant family, marijuana and hemp are distinguishable by their biochemical compositions. Hemp does not produce a psychoactive high.

 

Robert Salas holds NMID’s 2016 fellowship for a student journalist involved with the New Mexico News Port at the University of New Mexico.

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