February 26, 2015

Hemp R&D bill heads to Senate floor

industrialhempA bill that would allow hemp to be grown for research and development purposes navigated its third committee and is now headed to the Senate floor.

The legislation—sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque—passed easily on Thursday afternoon. The lone vote against passage was the only vote against passage so far in the process.

The legislation was made possible by a provision in the federal Farm Bill that allows hemp to be grown for research and development purposes.

This is what helped the legislation pass so easily according to McSorley.

“Now the federal government has created a standard by which we can all live by, giving the amount of THC and giving confidence to everybody that this isn’t a marijuana bill,” McSorley told New Mexico Political Report following the hearing. “It’s completely different.”

He said that people in rural areas have wanted this for years.

“They know you can’t get high smoking hemp,” McSorley said. “And yet, the stigma of it was so strong.”

During the hearing, he was asked about the type of hemp that would be grown and how much water it would use. He told the committee no one was quite sure because no one has been able to legally grow the plant in the state.

“It’s hard to tell a farmer to grow an illegal crop for sale right now,” McSorley said.

He said it was likely that New Mexico State University would do the research into the growth if this legislation passed.

Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park, was the only committee member to vote against it. She was concerned about how hemp plants with negligible amounts of THC look compared to marijuana plants.

McSorley said that when they are grown together, hemp plants are dominant and would make marijuana inactive. He also said that different parts are used.

“If someone is growing marijuana, the last thing they want is stems and leaves,” McSorley explained.

McSorley’s legislation would also allow the state Department of Agriculture to formulate rules for commercial use in the event that the federal government does pass legalization.

McSorely believes that is likely.

“There is a bill which people are predicting will pass this year before our next legislative session which will legalize it completely for commercial purposes as long as it’s regulated by state governments,” McSorley said after the hearing.

When asked if he had spoken to New Mexico’s congressional delegation about the legislation working its way through Congress, McSorley said not yet.

“My interest is getting it through the House,” McSorley said. “And when I do that, then I’ll turn my attention to [the delegation].”