House OKs bill to let NM farmers grow hemp

New Mexico would exempt industrial hemp from the state’s Controlled Substance Act if a bill that passed the House of Representatives on Monday becomes law.

Rick Little

Courtesy photo

Rick Little

House Bill 166, sponsored by Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral, passed on a 53-13 vote. Twelve Republicans and one Democrat opposed the measure.

Industrial hemp is not a recreational drug. Instead, it is used to manufacture everything from clothes to carpeting to auto dashboards. The United States imports products made with hemp from China, Canada and Mexico. Little and other advocates of industrial hemp foresee a day when New Mexico farmers would grow it for products that would be made in America.

Little said his bill would eliminate industrial hemp from the state’s Controlled Substance Act, but it would not affect the federal law against the fibrous plant. “We’d still have an issue,” he said. Industrial hemp is related to the marijuana plant, though hemp has a far lower level of the intoxicant THC.

“But my thought on it is, Colorado’s doing it. Thirty-two states are doing it,” Little said, alluding to the fact that former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department did not prosecute states that allowed industrial hemp production. “But we do have a different president now,” Little said.

Though President Donald Trump has indicated that he favors allowing states to decide their own laws on marijuana, it’s not clear what his position is on hemp.

One of those voting against the bill on Monday, Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, told House members that she couldn’t support this bill because it goes further than federal law.

Congress in early 2014 approved a farm bill that allows states to grow hemp for research.

Two other bills related to industrial hemp also are being considered by the House. One of those, Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, last week passed the Senate by a 37-2 vote. The other, HB 144, combined three bills sponsored by Reps. Little, Bill Gomez, D-Las Cruces, and Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque. The proposals would make it legal to cultivate hemp so researchers could study its industrial uses. The state Agriculture Department and New Mexico State University would oversee the research program.

Those bills are similar to one approved by the Legislature two years ago in a bipartisan vote. But Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed it, saying legal hemp might be confusing to law enforcement agencies because of its similar appearance to the marijuana plant.

Little’s bill advances to the Senate.

This article comes from The Santa Fe New Mexican. NMPolitics.net is paying for the rights to publish articles about the 2017 legislative session from the newspaper. Help us cover the cost by making a donation to NMPolitics.net.

Contact Steve Terrell at (505) 986-3037 or [email protected]. Read his political blog at santafenewmexican.com/news/blogs/politics.

This BBSNews article was syndicated from NMPolitics.net, and written by Heath Haussamen, NMPolitics.net. Read the original article here.