By Associated Press - Saturday, November 28, 2020

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) - Regents at New Mexico Highlands University have approved a new program that will offer students a certificate in industrial hemp entrepreneurship.

Approval came earlier this month, but school officials say the program must still go through any required state and accreditor reviews. The Higher Learning Commission must also sign off.

Industrial hemp production was legalized in New Mexico in 2019, and federal officials just recently approved the state Department of Agriculture’s hemp production regulatory plan. That allows the state to continue regulatory oversight over hemp production within its borders.

Growers and state officials say New Mexico has advantages over other states due to optimal growing conditions and an abundance of relatively cheap land.

“We believe that industrial hemp is a growth industry that can benefit the economic development of northeastern New Mexico,” Highlands business professor Heath Anderson said. “The most important goal of the new certificate program is to prepare students with the professional skills needed to be successful in the burgeoning legal hemp industry. It’s an opportunity to create an offering that’s very relevant in the business market.”

The university’s program will have two tracks - one for students focused on the business of industrial hemp and another for students interested in the science of plant production.

Industrialized hemp can be used in many products, from textiles and bioplastics to biofuels and medicinal applications.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department has predicted some 400 jobs could result from hemp-related businesses throughout the state with help from local economic development funding.

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