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NM removes final hurdle for hemp production

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico State University Board of Regents on Thursday voted to remove the final hurdle for industrial hemp production within the state under rules that will take effect Dec. 11.

The program will be administered by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

Under the state constitution, the Agriculture Department is under the authority of the Board of Regents, and all rule changes must be approved by those individuals.

Prospective hemp producers will have to obtain a license from the Agriculture Department and follow other guidelines in order to be in compliance with the law, said NMSU spokesman Justin Bannister.

In a statement, State Sen. Mary Kay Papen called the hemp law “another tool that allows New Mexico farmers to diversity their crop base and seek new market opportunities.”

The vote was unanimous, with three regents voting to approve the proposal. Two regents had scheduling conflicts and did not attend the meeting,

NMSU President John Floros said the university is “perfectly positioned to help in this industry” with its researchers in biochemistry, chemistry and plant pathology, among other areas.

A bill legalizing hemp production in New Mexico was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez in 2017. That veto was later overturned by the state Supreme Court on the grounds that Martinez failed to follow the proper procedures to overturn the law.

In the aftermath of that battle, the Department of Agriculture sought public comment before carrying out the rules proposed in the legislation.

Industrial hemp comes from the same plant species as marijuana, but contains only small amounts of THC, the chemical that creates a high. Hemp can be used for rope, clothing, biofuels, and the substance known as cannabidiol or CBD which is often sold as a health product.

Under federal law, all cannabis plants and cannabis-derived products are illegal, but many states are creating their own laws that conflict with that principle. A farm bill currently making its way through Congress would legalize industrial hemp nationwide.

State Agriculture Department spokeswoman Kristie Garcia said the agency has seen “a lot of interest” from producers interested in growing hemp in New Mexico.

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