Hemp was legalized in last year’s legislative session and this year, a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana is moving through the Legislature. The new hemp farms in New Mexico could pose a risk to outdoor marijuana crops.
Hemp and marijuana are different strains of the same plant. However, Jill Browning, chairwoman of the New Mexico Hemp Association, says the two industries differ in how they grow, produce and manufacture their products. “There is one thing that overlaps, and that is pollenization," she said.
Pollen from hemp farms can travel for miles, reaching and pollinating marijuana farms. “If they are growing outdoors, within range of a hemp farm, there is some potential loss in front of them,” Browning said.
Cross-pollination can drastically lower a marijuana crop’s THC content. That’s the psychoactive compound that hemp plants are bred to keep low. If the Cannabis Regulation Act makes it through the 2020 session, new farms could be at risk.
“The increased chance of cannabis farmers losing their crops to pollenization is definitely an issue,” Browning said. “It’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”
Male plants are the pollinators. Socorro County passed an ordinance banning male hemp plants and non-feminized seeds. Browning says other local municipalities should do the same.
This story is part of the project: Your N.M. Government. Funding for our legislative coverage is provided, in part, by the Thornburg Foundation, the New Mexico Local News Fund and KUNM listeners like you. Find more at KUNM-dot-org.