by Mike Maharrey, Activist Post:
A bill working its way through the New Mexico House that would remove the state ban on industrial hemp has already cleared its first committee hurdle. Passage into law would set the stage to nullify federal prohibition on the plant in practice.
Rep. Rick Little (R-Chaparral) introduced House Bill 166 (HB166) on Jan 18. The legislation would simply remove industrial hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances. This would open the door for a full-scale commercial hemp market in the state by treating it like any other crop for farming.
HB166 would not require any license to grow hemp, and it would create no state regulatory structure. This would have a similar effect as a bill passed in Connecticut in 2015. In short, the state would treat industrial hemp like other plants, such as tomatoes. By ending state prohibition, residents in New Mexico would have an open door to start industrial hemp farming should they be willing to risk violating ongoing federal prohibition.
On Tuesday, the House Agriculture, Water & Wildlife Committee submitted a report that it has approved the measure with a 7-1 vote.
Last fall, the Navajo Tribe has signed a resolution to grow industrial hemp on tribal lands. Legalization of industrial hemp in New Mexico would help facilitate tribal plans. They can proceed with or without state legalization, but eliminating a layer of state laws would certainly make the path toward developing a hemp economy smoother.
FEDERAL FARM BILL
Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”
…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.
In short, current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions only, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited. HB166 simply ignores federal prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production in New Mexico anyway.
By rejecting any need for federal approval, state legalization of hemp sets the stage to nullify the federal hemp ban in practice. New Mexico could join other states – including Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, California and others – that have simply ignored federal prohibition and legalized industrial hemp production within their state borders.
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