A bill that would allow New Mexico to grow industrial-use hemp for research purposes passed a House committee and heads to the floor for possible consideration.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 10-1 to approve SB 94 sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque.
McSorley told the committee that the bill aims to bring New Mexico into compliance with the federal Farm Act of 2014. He explained that hemp is a cousin of the marijuana plant, but does not contain the psychoactive substance THC. McSorley said it was important to pass his bill this year, so that New Mexico does not fall behind 19 other states already studying the commercial viability of hemp.
Similar to previous committee meetings on industrial hemp, members of the audience were largely in favor of SB 94. Discussion from the Judiciary Committee was limited, and only a few members spoke.
Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, asked the sponsor some technical questions about THC levels in hemp and whether growers can easily control them. McSorley replied that growers can indeed control THC levels through seed selection and by cloning plants. Dines said his questions were simply for informational purposes so he could answer to his constituency.
Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, said she wanted to make a motion to pass the bill on the floor in honor of the late G.X. McSherry. Chasey said McSherry, a former Democratic Representative from Deming, was a proponent of legalized hemp as a drought-resistant crop. McSherry’s successor, Rep. Dona Irwin, D-Deming, recently told another representative that she had long opposed legalized hemp, but that this year she changed her stance.
Judiciary Committee Vice-Chair Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, echoed Irwin’s sentiment when he told the committee that he too was hesitant about hemp, until he heard McSorley’s presentation.
“My initial response was, ‘No, there’s no way I can vote for it’,” said Pacheco.
He added he was ready to “take a leap of faith” and vote for the proposal.
McSorley’s hemp bill moves on to the House floor next. If the House grants its approval, SB 94 proceeds to Governor Susana Martinez’s desk for possible approval. The Martinez administration has not taken a public stance on industrial hemp.
If the bill becomes law, industrial hemp research would be conducted by the Department of Agriculture in conjunction with New Mexico State University.