ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday the hemp industry would be a natural fit for the state, already known for its prowess when it comes to growing green chile and tending to some of the most productive pecan orchards in the United States.
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, took to social media to praise the state House of Representatives’ endorsement of a measure that would set the stage for establishing industrial hemp production in New Mexico.
The bill must be approved by the Senate before heading to the governor’s desk. The 60-day legislative session is scheduled to wrap up in about two weeks.
Lujan Grisham said the legislation would help establish the framework needed to grow the industry in New Mexico, a state that has long history with agriculture.
“It’s about time we help our farmers and manufacturers get into the business,” she said in a statement.
Congress and President Donald Trump gave the legal nod to hemp in December through the farm bill, clearing the way for hemp farmers to buy crop insurance and apply for loans and grants like any other farmer.
That followed months of deliberations by agricultural officials in New Mexico to craft a set of rules that would govern the industrial cultivation of hemp. Rolled out in November, the rules call for growers to be licensed. They also establish fees as well as testing and inspection requirements.
The rulemaking effort stemmed from legislation that passed in 2017 and eventually became law in 2018 after the New Mexico Supreme Court settled a veto fight.
The measure currently pending in the Legislature would assign licensing and other regulatory duties to the state agriculture department when it comes to unprocessed hemp testing laboratories, harvesters and research breeders. Meanwhile, the state environment department would be charged with permitting and regulating hemp manufacturers, or those who make products that are intended for human consumption.
Hemp and marijuana are the same species, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high. Hemp has many uses, from rope and clothing to milk, cooking oil, soaps and lotions.
Under the legislation, the environment department would have rulemaking authority over how to handle hemp-derived material containing THC levels of more than 0.3 percent.