March 20, 2015

Hemp bill heads to governor’s desk

A bill that would allow research into the growth of industrial hemp passed the House and is now headed to the governor’s desk.

industrialhempThe House passed the bill on wide bipartisan vote, 54-12.

There was very little debate on the bill that would allow New Mexico State University and the state Department of Agriculture to grow hemp for research purposes.

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, carried the bill on the floor. He had carried a similar bill on the House side.

“This is strictly research and development,” Maestas said.

The bill was made possible by a portion of the 2014 federal Farm Bill. Supporters are hopeful that the growth of industrial hemp for all purposes would become legal on a federal level in legislation that is working its way through Congress.

“We could be first out of the gate in in the southwest,” Maestas said.

Though it did not come up on the floor, supporters had to emphasize frequently in committee that hemp does not have enough of the psychoactive chemical that would get someone high.

Rep. Ricky Little, R-Chaparral, asked where the funds for the research would go.

Maestas said that the funding for this would come from grants and donations and the interest on any investments from those funds. There would be no state funds for the growth of hemp.

Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, just wanted to clarify to all of those watching that the legislation was only for research purposes. Ezzell chairs the House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee, which passed the bill unanimously last week.

All but one of the votes against the legislation came from Republicans.