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Gov. Martinez vetoes industrial hemp bill

SANTA FE – For the second time in two years, Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed legislation authorizing the state-regulated growing of industrial hemp.

The governor’s veto could set up a showdown between Martinez and the Legislature, as the hemp bill passed both the House and Senate by decisive margins.

However, it’s unclear whether the Legislature might attempt to override Martinez’s veto. A veto override would require a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber, and there’s a separate hemp-related bill that’s on it’s way to the governor’s desk.

The two-term Republican governor did not provide an explanation for her Wednesday veto in an executive message sent to House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.

However, in her 2015 message, Martinez said that allowing industrial hemp cultivation would create contradictions between state and federal law and complicate the job of law enforcement officers.

The measure vetoed Wednesday, House Bill 144, was a combination of three different pieces of legislation, sponsored by lawmakers from both political parties.

The bill would have authorized the state Department of Agriculture to oversee the growing of industrial hemp – outlawed now because it’s the same plant species as marijuana but bred for different traits – for research and development purposes.

A 2014 federal law allows universities and state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes. Hemp can be used in a wide range of products, including fibers, textiles, insulation materials and animal food.

As of last summer, at least 30 other states had passed laws related to industrial hemp, though the laws varied by state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Meanwhile, Martinez signed two other bills into law Wednesday – House Bills 60 and 113, both dealing with expanding broadband access – and said they would help improve internet connectivity for schools and bolster the state’s efforts to lure new business to the state.