Hemp Permit 2015Today, the University of Hawaii received a permit from U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration, to import industrial hemp seeds from Australia for Hawaii’s Industrial Hemp Research Project. This project was signed into law on April 30,, 2014 and will be started as soon as the seeds arrive in the islands.

“This project is just the first step in establishing Hawaii as a leader in the growth and production of industrial hemp and its products,” said Rep. Cynthia Thielen (Kailua-Kaneohe Bay), a longtime proponent for industrial hemp in Hawaii.

Unfortunately there was a delay in initiating the project because hemp seeds are still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the Federal government and require DEA approval before being imported, bought, or sold.

“It is unnecessary and silly that the growth of such a viable and important product has to be limited by antiquated fears and misconceptions,” said Rep. Thielen, adding that this summer she met with leaders in Washington D.C. regarding the removal of hemp from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.

University of Hawaii professor and scientist Dr. Harry Ako, will be the lead project researcher. He will be investigating the use of industrial hemp as a phytorediator as well as a biofuel for our island state. Phytoremediation involves the direct use of green plants to stabilize or reduce contamination in soils which is needed to rejuvenate contaminated agricultural lands.

“I am looking forward to planting and cultivating this important crop which has so much potential for Hawaii’s agricultural future. It is exciting knowing that the University of Hawai‘i, and our state, is at the forefront in bringing industrial hemp back to our farmers as a crop which offers so much for so many,” said Dr. Ako.

This project was made possible through the passage of the national “Farm Bill” last year which legalized hemp research in those states which have passed laws authorizing hemp to be grown. Unfortunately, because U.S. hemp cultivation was made illegal in 1970, hemp seeds must be imported from other countries.

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Michele Van Hessen is a local videographer and news reporter who has worked for the House Minority at the Hawaii State Legislature. Reach her at mvanhess@gmail.com