A bill to legalize the growing, processing, and sale of industrial hemp in Hawai‘i has headed to Governor David Ige’s desk to sign into law. Hopefully this one will have better luck.
Chair of the Agriculture and Environment Committee Senator Mike Gabbard was a happy man last Friday when HB1819 HD2 SD3, championed by Senator Gabbard, passed in the House of Representatives.
“This commercial hemp program will help grow a new industry in our state, which is especially needed now due to the impacts of COVID-19,” said Senator Gabbard. “This bill will provide an opportunity for economic development and the diversification of our economy.”
It’s been a long road to this point, with another bill, Senate Bill 1353, vetoed by Governor Ige last year. The reason given by Governor Ige for his veto was that it would have been unenforceable. Development of this latest bill involved working with with the Governor’s administration directly to help ensure its enactment.
The new bill would see local hemp farmers applying directly to the USDA to acquire licenses instead of a state hemp agency being set up; saving the state more than half a million dollars.
Hawai‘i is currently running its pilot hemp program under provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill, which is permissible for this year. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, all states must submit their plans for review and approval, and where a state doesn’t have one; it will be able to operate under a national plan assuming a state is happy to host hemp cultivation.
Hawaii is in a particularly good position to host a thriving hemp industry, with three crops possible a year and giving it an edge over most other states. Back in 2016, A study by University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources suggested 70+ tons of industrial hemp could be produced per acre each year in the state.
While the state may experience very favourable growing conditions, growing hemp in Hawai’i proved to be a challenge last yea – with more than half of its hemp in 2019 destroyed due to elevated THC levels.