Hemp, the new “El Dorado” of New Mexico


New Mexico wants to become the main hemp producer in the country

There is still a lot of confusion about hemp, a cannabis plant that is a marijuana cousin but without psychoactive effects. The person who smokes hemp does not do so to get high, even though the plant was classified as a substance of List I, according to the Controlled Substances Act, as well as heroin, cocaine or LSD which are considered substances of medical use not acceptable and with a high potential for abuse.

Fortunately, this absurd situation changed last December, when the United States Congress passed the 2018 Agricultural Law, which removed hemp from the list of controlled substances and classifying it as an agricultural product.

This year, a bill passed by the New Mexico Legislature has allowed state agencies to regulate the hemp industry in the state. The State Department of Agriculture is responsible for overseeing everything related to the cultivation, reproduction and testing of hemp plants. For its part, the Department of the Environment will regulate everything related to what happens after the harvest: the extraction and processing of hemp oils and the manufacture and transport of hemp products.

It is necessary to hurry

The change in the law is a big problem, precisely because of the lack of regulations. It is estimated that in 2022, hemp will become an industry that will generate 2.6 billion dollars throughout the country. And New Mexico wants to take its share of the cake since it considers that the economic potential of hemp is extraordinary in this state whose weather conditions are exceptional. New Mexico is a prey to the so-called “green gold rush” and is determined to do whatever it takes to become the country’s leading producer.

Last April, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham gave a press release stating that the hemp industry is full of potential. The governor made her press release after signing the bill that establishes the commercial and industrial uses of hemp and creates a regulatory structure. Lujan Grisham says hemp can play, and in fact and will play a key role that will boost New Mexico’s agricultural sector, creating high quality jobs and driving innovation.

Soon after, Brad Lewis, director of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture division, said the state is already seeing the results. Indeed, in a very short time New Mexico has witnessed how jobs have been created for hemp production and how commercial buildings that have been empty for years have been redesigned for hemp.

Millions of dollars flow throughout the state through hemp companies. The state has invested in hemp companies through grant and loan programs. It has even created new home industries, and also large commercial companies that are moving to New Mexico, which some call the new “El Dorado”. In fact, important agreements are being reached between universities and private companies to conduct research.

And the hemp industry boom is taking place in New Mexico even before the regulatory rules have been formally established. The state agencies involved in this business have to rush into creating rules if they want to make New Mexico the first hemp producer in the country. This season is the first in which the citizens of this state are seeing the development of the first hemp crops outdoors and in greenhouses whose results will be seen in October.

At the moment the Department of Agriculture is still drafting the rules regarding the regulation of hemp breeders and laboratories that test raw hemp. Hemp plants contain small amounts of THC, the plant’s psychoactive compound. But federal law states that hemp plants cannot contain more than 0.3% THC.

On the other hand, the Department of Environment is in a hurry to write the rules regarding everything that is done with the plant after harvest.

Recently the Department of Agriculture met for the last time in order to discuss the different regulations that will take effect this week in relation to everything related to the extraction, manufacture and storage of hemp.

Last December, licenses to grow hemp began to be granted. Licensing is the result of the Hemp Research Cultivation Act of 2017, which former governor Susana Martínez did her best to avoid, along with nine other bills, making use of her right to veto. But the former governor was not able to explain the reasons for the vetoes, as required by the state Constitution. Therefore, the state Supreme Court ruled last year that the vetoes were invalid. The only argument that the former governor makes is that hemp and marijuana are very similar.

On the contrary, the new governor Lujan Grisham has supported hemp and the entire cannabis industry from the beginning. Last month the governor commissioned a work team to investigate how the states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use are regulating the plant from start to finish. That is, from the seed to the sale.

Although the hemp industry in New Mexico is beginning to flourish, the state is very clear that it can be the largest hemp producer in the entire country. So far 335 licenses have been issued to grow hemp on approximately 7,000 acres in outdoor plantations and another 110 acres for indoor crops. The Department of Agriculture affirms that the interest raised has been much greater than expected and that the state is already prepared to be one of the main hemp producing states of the country.

Nuclear cleaning?

A couple from New Mexico has been researching hemp’s potential for almost 20 years. The couple says that New Mexico has great potential for citizens and Native American tribes to earn money with the project since hemp offers great opportunities for farmers. The truth is that there is a great demand but the supply is very small. Hemp is the perfect crop for New Mexico farmers because of its great versatility. Farmers could substitute traditional alfalfa for hemp.

Most hemp growers do it thinking about CBD extractions, which is used to relieve aches and pains, reduce anxiety, help people sleep better and help in the treatment against some types of cancer. But the industry has a much more versatile potential. With hemp you can make paper, construction and packaging materials, food for people and animals, biofuels and bioplastics. Precisely the state of New Mexico has high hopes for biodegradable plastics from hemp since the potential would be enormous.

Although as we have already said, the vast majority of people are growing hemp for the CBD, scientists were growing hemp to detoxify contaminated fields near Chernobyl in the 1990s, and subsequently it was cultivated to remedy radiation in the surrounding soils. from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Therefore, hemp could be used to clean radioactive waste in the soils around the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Hemp plants are bioaccumulators that generate phytoalexins, which operate as a plant defense system and eliminate soil contaminants. In fact, it is very normal to see cannabis plants growing around industrial waste.

Those who advocate hemp believe that phytoremediation is an effective and ecological method of environmental restoration and an alternative to other processes that are more destructive to the soil.

Experts agree that New Mexico is prepared to become the country’s largest producer in the hemp industry. On the one hand, the semi-arid climate is perfect since it has a low humidity that reduces the threat of mold, a fungus that can destroy a crop. New Mexico may be the new “El Dorado” for the New Mexico economy and what nobody doubts is that it could be the number 1 hemp producing state in the country.

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