April 10, 2015

Martinez vetoes bill to allow hemp research

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There won’t be any research into the growth of hemp for industrial purposes in New Mexico anytime soon.

industrialhempGov. Susana Martinez vetoed legislation that would allow the growth of hemp for industrial purposes on Friday, the final day to act on legislation.

Martinez’s executive message said that there were inconsistencies between the bill and federal language that mentions hemp.

Senate Bill 94 poses a number of problems as a result of the contradictions it would create between state and federal law. As just one example, federal law classifies tetrahydrocannabinol
as a controlled substance where hemp products designed for human ingestion are concerned. Senate Bill 94 does not recognize this distinction. This and other conflicts between state and federal law would unnecessarily complicate the task of law enforcement and the state Department of Agriculture of regulating the production of hemp.

Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the bill and disputed this in a short phone interview with New Mexico Political Report. McSorley said that the legislation used the same language as the federal farm bill that authorized the growth of hemp for research purposes.

“If the federal government’s language for hemp doesn’t work, I don’t know what will,” he said.

He also said that he worked closely with the Department of Agriculture, a cabinet-level department in Martinez’s administration, on the bill.

He said that a representative from the Department of Agriculture sat with him during a hearing in the House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee and had no concerns when asked by committee chair Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell.

Martinez, a former prosecutor, has been opposed to marijuana legislation over the years, even saying while she was running for governor that she opposed the state’s medical marijuana law. She did acknowledge the difference between hemp and marijuana.

“Given the similarities between growing hemp and marijuana, this legislation could also create serious challenges for law enforcement in investigating drug crimes,” Martinez wrote in her executive message announcing the veto.

McSorley said he thought the veto was political payback.

“I think she thinks she’s settling some sort of political score and that this satisfies her anger,” McSorley said. “This is her inability to put aside her anger and deal with the needs of the people of New Mexico.”

When asked what it would be payback for, he said he didn’t know.

Following the end of the legislative session, two Democratic Senators who were sent to inform Martinez that the Senate had adjourned sine die said that Martinez was “furious” at how the session ended.

McSorley filibustered a tax bill for the final fifteen minutes of the session, and the two Senators said Martinez told them that she would make sure the entire state knew what McSorley did.

Update:

The Drug Policy Alliance weighed in later Friday afternoon.

“By vetoing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, Governor Martinez has chosen to ignore the will of a super majority of state lawmakers and has done a disservice to the state,” Jessica Gelay, policy coordinator with the New Mexico office of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement to media. “It’s a shame that New Mexico is not joining the twenty-two other states—including very conservative states like Utah, Kentucky and Tennessee—that have enacted legislation to legalize industrial hemp for research and development or commercial cultivation.”

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