According to the National Conference of State Legislators, at least 30 states passed legislation related to industrial hemp. In New Mexico, state lawmakers learned in early December that the projected state budget will be $69 million short in the current fiscal year and revenue projections are down for the next fiscal year once again. New Mexico’s economy is highly dependent on oil and gas revenues. State Sen. Cisco McSorley pre-filled the measure for the upcoming legislative session in 2017, Senate Bill 6 to provide for the establishment of the New Mexico industrial hemp research and development fund. Hemp proponents have continued to promote hemp for economic development, citing its potential for thousands of industrial applications, along with the state’s favorable climate for growing the hardy plant and its water-conservation benefits.
With most state legislatures having taken action to promote industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity in recent years, it’s time for New Mexico to join those ranks. A wide range of products, including fibers, textiles, paper, construction and insulation materials, cosmetic products, animal feed, food, and beverages all may use hemp. The plant is estimated to be used in more than 25,000 products spanning nine markets: agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food/nutrition/beverages, paper, construction materials and personal care.
While hemp and cannabis products both come from the cannabis plant, hemp is typically distinguished by its use, physical appearance and lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp farmers and producers often grow the plant for the seeds and stalk. The plant is cultivated to grow taller, denser and with a single stalk. Marijuana, grown for the budding flowers, tends to be grown shorter, bushier and well-spaced.
Generally, states have taken three approaches: establish industrial hemp research and/or pilot programs, authorize studies of the industrial hemp industry, or establish commercial industrial hemp programs. Some states establishing these programs require a change in federal laws or a waiver from the DEA prior to implementation.
Hemp legalization for New Mexico in conjunction with the utilization of solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources would be a giant leap forward in breaking it’s dependence on the federal government and oil revenues. This will create jobs, has vast potential for the state universities to benefit, and creates a new business market to keep college graduates in New Mexico. In spite of the absence of rules or regulations, some existing academic institutions, including New Mexico State University, Santa Fe Community College and the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management, have expressed interest in studies ranging from seed research, food and nutraceuticals, to pharmaceutical grade CBD—a compound found in hemp—for potential epilepsy and cancer medicines.