A bill to allow Hawaii’s farmers to grow and sell industrial hemp has passed the Hawaii State House of Representatives unanimously and is now headed for the Senate.
The bill, HB2555 HD1, was championed by Rep. Kaniela Ing (D-Kihei), who was clearly very happy with the outcome.
“Hemp unanimously passes the House! My bill to legalize industrial hemp as part of our vision for no-burn, regenerative, diversified agriculture on Maui now moves to the Senate,” Rep. Ing posted on his Facebook page.
“It’s our job as legislators to stop making everything illegal and over- regulated and leave it up to the professionals. That’s why I am proposing to open this crop up to the free market.”
Industrial hemp has become a particularly hot topic in Hawaii – and even more so in Maui after the closure of a 36,000 acre sugar cane operation was announced late last year. The closure will see hundreds of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. employees lose their jobs.
Industrial hemp could come to the rescue as a permanent full-time crop and/or part of crop rotation to restore soil between other food crops.
HB2555 HD1 states:
“The purpose of this Act is to authorize industrial hemp to be grown as part of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural research to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp under specific agreement with and under the authority of the department of agriculture, pursuant to a memorandum of understanding.”
Registered growers will be permitted to sell harvested industrial hemp to agribusinesses or manufacturers for the purpose of processing or manufacturing the material into hemp products.
Where industrial hemp programs have been implemented, one of the major hurdles has been a very important one – legally procuring seed. HB 255 addresses this by permitting industrial hemp seed cultivars that have been certified by the OECD and Hawaii varieties certified by the Board of Agriculture.
A recent study by University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources indicates 70 tons of industrial hemp could be harvested per acre each year in the state.