Distinguished officials  attended a blessing and seed planting ceremony for the University of Hawaii’s Industrial Hemp Project in Waimanalo. This project was the result of Act 56 which established an industrial hemp research project to be conducted by Principal UH Researcher Dr. Harry Ako to study hemp for soil phytoremediation (cleaning) as well as for a potential biofuel.

“With over 25,000 uses, hemp is an important crop which not only has proven a viable money maker in other countries, but offers so much potential for Hawaii’s struggling agricultural industry,” said State Representative Cynthia Thielen (Kailua-Kaneohe Bay), adding, “My hope is that this small Waimanalo research field will be the first step in providing our farmers with an exciting new crop which can be grown throughout our islands.

Last year, the United States Senate approved the Agriculture Act of 2014, also known as the “Farm Bill,” and industrial hemp is now allowed to be grown for research purposes. According to the National Farm Bill, any university can grow industrial    hemp without obtaining a Drug Enforcement Agency permit, however a DEA permit is needed to legally bring hemp seed into the United States, or to transfer seed between states. Unfortunately, it has been very difficult to import legal hemp seed in order to plant the fields.

“It is absolutely imperative that Congress remove industrial hemp from the Schedule 1 Controlled Substances list so that it can be added to legal crop production. The federal legalization of industrial hemp will eliminate many of the unnecessary roadblocks farmers currently face in not only growing the crop, but obtaining seeds for planting,” said Rep. Thielen.

Rep. Thielen, who has long been a proponent of industrial hemp because of the economic capabilities of the crop, said, “The United States is the only industrialized country that does not grow industrial hemp. Although legal hemp and hemp products imported into the U.S. exceeded $620 million in 2014, the market for this product as a U.S. export has been limited due to legal restraints on hemp farming. Hawaii could profit hugely from this environmentally friendly crop, if only the Federal restraints were removed through Congressional Action or Presidential Executive Order.”

Reps and senators at Blessing

From Left to right:  Senator Russell Ruderman, Representative Cynthia Thielen, Dr. Harry Ako, Lead Scientist for the Hawai’i Hemp Project, Senator Mike Gabbard, Representative Chris Lee, Representative Richard Cregan, Senator Gil Riviere, Representative Lynn DeCoite and  Maria Gallo Dean of the University of Hawai’i College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources.

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