COMMENTARY: One of the few encouraging developments in the otherwise dismal 2016 special session was the New Mexico Senate’s bipartisan passage (35-5) of the Industrial Hemp Research Bill (SB11). It will lay the foundation for hemp industrialization and ample jobs in our state, both in the agricultural world and manufacturing.
Who knows what the House Republicans and Governor Susana Martinez will do with it next time, but they ought to wholeheartedly support industrial hemp legislation, and help make it the law.
Put simply, growing hemp grows the economy. The hemp industry promises multifold economic benefits for our state. Our agricultural economy in rural New Mexico will see a healthy boost from a low-water crop that is perfect for the arid climate of New Mexico.
With the second-highest unemployment in the nation, New Mexicans are ready to work, and this bill creates jobs. It would open doors to an agricultural and industrial renaissance that we desperately need. There is a ready market for hemp crops, from vitamins to clothing — and even for many other products, such as car seats.
The federal government no longer classifies hemp as a drug, because its THC levels are insufficient to cause intoxication — so there is no danger of abuse. There was no opposition to this legislation in the 2016 regular session. The police and sheriff’s lobby took no position on this legislation during the recent special session.
Also, the hemp plant is easily distinguishable from marijuana, so law enforcement can be quickly trained to make the distinction between hemp and marijuana. Our state Department of Agriculture will license, monitor and certify hemp growers.
Industrial hemp is a job- and wealth-creator for which New Mexico has a unique competitive advantage. That is the kind of thing we need more of nowadays. Now is the time to pass the Industrial Hemp Research Bill.
Cisco McSorley, a Democrat, represents the Albuquerque-area District 16 in the N.M. Senate.