New Bill Could Move Hemp Research Forward

Talking Story…Sen. Mike Gabbard

What crop can be grown without pesticides and has more than 25,000 uses? If you said hemp, you’re right. But please don’t confuse hemp with marijuana. Hemp contains significantly less THC. In other words, you can’t get high from hemp!

Hemp is one of the oldest plants ever cultivated: The Chinese used hemp 12,000 years ago to make shoes, clothes, rope and paper. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. George Washington was a hemp farmer. Henry Ford’s original cars had hemp fenders. He took a sledgehammer to one and couldn’t make a dent!

And, the seeds have excellent nutritional value. I know because my wife Carol has been putting them in my smoothies for years.

Unfortunately, as part of a campaign to confuse hemp with marijuana, the hemp industry died in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act — except briefly during World War II when a U.S. Department of Agriculture film, Hemp for Victory, extolled its virtues, and thousands of acres were planted. The 1970 Controlled Substances Act imposed further restrictions on hemp when it classified it as a Schedule I drug along with marijuana.

Fortunately, the 2014 Farm Bill exempted “hemp grown for research purposes.”

Last April, the Legislature passed a version of a bill I introduced that authorizes the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources to establish a two-year hemp remediation and biofuel research project. Professor Harry Ako will conduct the research at a UH extension site in Waimanalo. I’ve introduced another hemp bill this session (SB375) to continue moving us forward.

Some law enforcement officials are concerned about differentiating hemp from marijuana. They worry that hemp fields will be used to hide marijuana plants. But the reality is that the plants look completely different in the field, and cross-pollination reduces marijuana’s TCH potency. No pot grower would want that. More than 30 nations grow industrial hemp, and there’s no problem with police being able to tell the difference.

“Hempcrete” is used in construction materials in Europe. It’s non-toxic and less expensive than traditional building materials and could provide a niche market in Hawaii for people with chemical sensitivities.

Hemp also has been used to help detoxify contaminated land, such as the ground around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and in Fukushima.

Why not use hemp to help clean up our aina? Colorado, Kentucky and Vermont also are conducting pilot programs, and along with California, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and West Virginia, have laws promoting the marketing of hemp.

I’m hopeful we’ll also be able to grow and market hemp commercially. Imagine a local cottage industry selling Hawaiian Hemp

Seeds, Honolulu Hemp Shampoo, or Hawaii Island Hemp Oil? How cool would that be?

Annually, the U.S. imports an estimated $581 million worth of hemp products from overseas. That’s money leaving our pockets that should be staying in our economy.

You can find out more about this amazing plant from the documentary Bringing it Home. And please contact your legislators to let them know you support hemp.

State Sen. Mike Gabbard represents District 20 (Kapolei, Makakilo and portions of Ewa, Kalaeloa and Waipahu). Call him in Room 201 at 586-6830 or email