The state Department of Agriculture is proposing rules that would allow the growing of hemp in New Mexico – a key step in carrying out a 2017 law that Gov. Susana Martinez opposed.
The rules outline licensing and testing requirements to ensure that hemp – a relative of marijuana – doesn’t have high levels of the chemical that makes people high.
Hemp is a kind of cannabis, grown for industrial purposes, not to cause intoxication. It’s illegal to grow in New Mexico, at least until new rules are adopted.
Supporters say hemp could be a lucrative crop for New Mexico farmers and help the state’s economy. It can be used to make clothes and other products.
“We have a huge opportunity,” Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, said in an interview.
The production of hemp, he said, has the potential to create farming and manufacturing jobs, especially in rural areas. It’s used in many kinds of products, McSorley said.
Gov. Martinez, a Republican, opposed the legislation allowing hemp, arguing that it would complicate law enforcement efforts.
She tried to veto the bill in 2017, but the state Supreme Court later ruled that she failed to follow the proper procedures to reject the legislation. Senate Bill 6, sponsored by McSorley, was one of 10 pieces of legislation that became law after her vetoes were invalidated.
The state is now seeking public comment as it prepares to put the hemp law into effect. Five meetings are scheduled for mid-October.
Under the proposed rules, people would have to apply for a license about five weeks before growing hemp. There would be licensing fees, of about $900 per location in some cases; testing and inspection requirements; and procedures for destroying plants that contain too much tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that causes intoxication.
Kristie Garcia, a spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture, stressed that the rules are simply proposed at this point and the state is soliciting public comment on them. A hearing officer will then make a recommendation.
The department has authority over the growing of hemp, not what producers do with the plant afterward, Garcia said.
The rules are available at the Department of Agriculture website, www.nmda.nmsu.edu.
Dozens of other states already allow the cultivation of hemp in limited circumstances.
Proposals to legalize marijuana for recreational use have repeatedly failed in New Mexico. The state allows the use of cannabis for some medical conditions.