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State Seeks Public Input on Industrial Hemp Rules

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The state launched a public hearing schedule today to determine the feasibility of growing industrial hemp in Hawai’i. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

Hemp is a cannabis grown for fiber and seed but is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.   The State Department of Agriculture Quality Assurance Division conducted the first of 6 public hearings, statewide, on the proposed administrative rules for Hawai’i-Grown Industrial Hemp.   One interested Honolulu resident, who did not want to be identified by name, asked if the pilot research project was currently on hold.

“Given that this program is new, you need the permit from the DEA and Public Safety.   Without those two, the project can’t go forward.”

Quality Assurance Division administrator, Jeri Kahana, confirmed that the project is awaiting a DEA permit to import hemp seeds.   She also says the state is waiting DEA rules for the interisland transport of hemp.  Her division, she says, will exercise oversight on farming.

“We’re regulating the production of hemp, primarily to ensure that the crop that they are growing does not exceed that point-three Tetrahydrocannabinol limit. That will turn it into marijuana.”

There are a number of proposed reporting requirements related to growing and processing the federally controlled substance.  Farmers could be assessed fees.   Shelley Choy is a special assistant to the chair of the Department of Agriculture working on the Hemp project .

“These are draft rules so nothing is like set in stone yet.  But the application cost just to apply for a permit to grow would be $500.  And then, if you wanted a license, it would be $250.  And then there’s a restriction of 10 acres max per license and 2 dollars per acre.”

Choy says farmers would also pay for laboratory work for compliance sampling and testing as well as security.

“It’s cannabis; it looks like something illegal so if a passerby walks by and it’s just growing in your yard, it’s not gonna work really well so it needs to have some sort of reasonable security for what you’re growing.”

Administrator Kahana says interest in farming hemp is especially high on Maui with the closure of sugar cane operations there and also on the Big Island’s west side around Kona.   She says public input will be welcomed.

“They might oppose the fees; they might oppose our regulating them; the testing, the sampling.   You don’t know what they’re gonna oppose.   You know, we have some legislators that are very passionate about industrial hemp and they see it as a potentially   successful agricultural industry.”

The Quality Assurance Division will conduct public hearings on the neighbor islands until May 22nd.  Schedules are available on the Department of Agriculture website: hdoa.hawai’i.gov.

Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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