December 3, 2015

Another attempt at bill to allow hemp research

Last year, State Sen. Cisco McSorley worked to get a hemp bill through the committee process in each chamber. The legislation passed in a very different form from the beginning of the session after advice from legislators, Department of Agriculture staff and stakeholders.

industrialhempThen Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed it, saying there were inconsistencies between it and federal law.

The Albuquerque Democrat is coming back with the legislation for a second year, with a quick stop in front of the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice committee on Wednesday as the beginning of the effort.

The committee endorsed the legislation, though it’s unclear if Martinez will put the legislation on the call and allow discussion in the short session.

He told the committee he is willing to talk to Martinez’s administration about the legislation.

“Whatever the governor needs, I will certainly negotiate,” he said.

Already, he said he went back and made sure the language in the legislation mirrored the federal farm bill that allowed states to do research and development on industrial hemp.

New Mexico would not be going out on a limb with the legislation; not only is it now allowed by federal law, but other states have already decided to go forward. More than half, in fact.

“There’s now 27 states ahead of us,” McSorley said.

State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, supported the legislation, which had been around in one form or another for years.

“It takes time for our brains to realize that this not a drug, it never should have been outlawed in the first place,” he said.

Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral, asked why it hadn’t been passed before. McSorley said concerns that it remained illegal by federal law to grow the crop was the main factor.

Rep. Andy Nuñez, a Republican from Hatch who voted for the bill last year, agreed and said that the federal government giving the OK was a big reason for the 2014 breakthrough.

McSorley has a strained relationship, to say the least, with Martinez.

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

The tax package ultimately passed during a special session held months later. McSorley voted against it.

Endorsements from interim committees do not have any real effect on legislation during the session, but can indicate support for the bill and that work has been done, which could help the legislation work its way through the House and Senate.