Lawmakers introduce bill to expand industrial hemp operations

KHON - January 26, 2016
Web Staff

Lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday to expand industrial hemp operations in Hawaii.

The measure, HB2555, supports a public-private partnership to consider the benefits of industrial hemp to our state’s economy.

The measure has been cosigned by over 30 members in the House of Representatives.

A similar industrial hemp measure, SB2659, was introduced last week on the Senate side by Sen. Mike Gabbard.

As of now, there is only one plot of industrial hemp that’s allowed to be grown in Hawaii, and that’s the University of Hawaii’s research project in Waimanalo.

But this bill would allow anyone to apply for a permit to research, grow and sell hemp in Hawaii.

“It’s for industrial use, like clothes and rope,” said Rep. Kaniela Ing (D/Kihei, Wailea, Makena). “The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper, but somehow we just veered so far from it. The crop itself can restore the nutrients to the soil that it’s on.

“There is a huge groundswell of support from the general public and members of the agriculture sector to legalize industrial hemp,” he said. “While hemp is not a magic bullet for Hawaii’s struggling agriculture industry, it does deserve our consideration, especially with the closing of sugar operations by HC&S.”

Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R/Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) — a longtime supporter of legalizing industrial hemp — said “hemp is often grown without pesticides or herbicides due to its natural ability to ward off unwanted insects and weeds. Furthermore, hemp’s potential as a biofuel feedstock could be a game-changer for Hawaii.

“There are over 25,000 different uses for hemp, and in the U.S. alone, the market for hemp seed oil and fiber is approximately $600 million a year,” she said.

According to scientists, hemp is similar to marijuana, but does not have enough of the active ingredient THC to get people high.