Historic hemp harvest buoys hopes

KITV - July 23, 2015
Catherine Cruz

“They are beasts. I call them monsters. It's crazy. They are ten weeks old, and they got this big," said UH researcher Harry Ako.

According to Ako, the plants are not only drought-resistant and self-weeding, they're organic too. There has been no use of pesticides or fertilizer.

The ceremonial harvest celebrated results that have yielded robust plants in a short window of time.

With the potential of three crops a year, lawmakers who support the development of a Hawaii hemp industry say it's time to drop the stigma.

"No one should be afraid of a crop that has 25,000 uses, none of which get you high. So, it's time to get rid of the fear," said Rep. Cynthia Thielen.

“The fact that you are getting plants that are 10 feet high in 16 weeks-- this could be an amazing boon for our farmers and our economy," said Sen. Mike Gabbard.
Ako says for him, it’s all about jobs for the future, and he is hopeful now that local businesses are starting to get interested.

“HC&S is thinking of grabbing the market on seeds, so if Kentucky wants to buy hemp they have to come to Hawaii to buy seeds," said Ako.
He pointed to one plant bursting with seeds.

There is also the potential for hempcrete, a building material that could be produced in the islands.

"We need to do the nuts and bolts of farming. We need to figure out irrigation. Once we release it to the private sector, farmers will need to know," said Ako.

It‘s a promising start, but there's more research work ahead to get this fledgling crop in more than just this one test field.