"It's crazy. It's crazy fast". That's how Dr. Harry Ako, the lead researcher on UH Manoa’s industrial hemp project, describes how well one of the varieties has taken to the local environment.
In just ten weeks, several plants have grown to nearly 10 feet in height.
"Notice they destroy the weeds underneath because they grow so much faster than the weeds" he continued.
Longtime advocates were thrilled with the results.
"I'm so excited. It means so much for our farmers, it means so much for our entrepreneurs" said State Representative Cynthia Thielen, who has long championed the effort.
"This is an amazing plant. It's going to be a boon for Hawaii farmers, for the Hawaii economy" said State Senator Mike Gabbard, Chair of the Committee on Water, Land and Agriculture.
While the plants have flourished, the industry is still stunted. In Hawaii, industrial hemp growth is illegal.
"There are a few, a very few number of legislators that still are afraid of a crop that won't get anyone high. Unfortunately, some of them were in key positions last year" said Thielen, in reference to a bill
that died in committee.
She and Gabbard, however, remain steadfast in getting legislation passed that will allow farmers to cultivate the crop for one of its thousands of applications.
State Representative Chris Lee sees it as an economic driver. "With the demise of sugarcane, pineapple...this can be something that can truly replace that on a massive scale. This can put people to work, can
put dollars back in our economy, and market globally".
Researchers will now test the harvested hemp for a variety of factors. Doctor Ako said if politics weren’t involved, Hawaii could have an established hemp economy in as little as five years.
Industrial hemp, he notes, has a low THC count and does not get you high.