This bill, sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorely (D-Bernalillo), had to clear three different committees before being approved by the full Senate in a 23-18 vote.
It was not the easiest sell, as many senators questioned the safety risks that may be associated with such legalization. Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort (R-Sandia Park), raised many such questions during the Senate hearing. During the hearing, Beffort reportedly stated,
“There’s not a distinctive smell differentiation, they don’t look dramatically different and from 1,000 feet, unless you have those special cameras, apparently, you won’t be able to tell the difference.”
To which, bill sponsor Sen. McSorely responded by explaining the difference between marijuana and hemp. They are both cannabis, but hemp has minuscule amounts of the psychoactive cannabinoid known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This means that the kids cannot get “high” on industrial hemp.
Sen. McSorely summarized,
“This plant is not a threat to our children,” McSorley said. “I put our faith in our farmers who want to grow it.”
This bill only legalizes industrial hemp cultivation for research purposes, and the honors will most likely be given to New Mexico State University. Hemp cultivation has been against federal law for decades, but a recent federal farm bill legalized the farming of the plant for research purposes only.
Although this bill does not permit farmers to begin growing hemp as a cash crop, it does however establish the framework to allow for industrial farming of hemp if it is ever legalized by the federal government.
Laws have already been passed in 19 states, including California, Colorado and Kentucky, establishing pilot programs for research and production of marijuana’s “non-intoxicating cousin,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Senate Bill 94 will now move to the New Mexico House for a vote. If it is passed by the house, it will go to the desk of Governor Susana Martinez. Gov. Martinez has reported that while she does not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, she does support the legalization of industrial hemp. She will most likely sign this bill into law if it makes it to her desk.