Hemp bill movesBy Craig Gima
to state Senate
Hawaii could be the first state in the nation to allow the growing of industrial hemp, but a bill that would set up a pilot project must first survive a vote in the state Senate next week.
Proponents say industrial hemp is of the same plant species as marijuana, but contains far less concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, which gives marijuana its "high."
"It could give you severe headaches and diarrhea, but it could not get you high," said Senate Judiciary Co-Chairman Matt Matsunaga (D, Palolo).
Matsunaga said proponents convinced him that industrial hemp and marijuana look different and have different properties. He said the industrial hemp plants are tall and stocky, while marijuana plants are short and bushy.
The Judiciary Committee passed the bill yesterday, after adding provisions to have law enforcement oversight over industrial hemp growers.
Matsunaga said he expects the bill to face strong opposition on the Senate floor, but does not think opponents have the votes necessary to kill it.
Sen. Cal Kawamoto (D, Wahiawa) is leading the effort to kill the bill on the Senate floor because of concerns expressed by law enforcement that legalizing hemp will make it more difficult to enforce laws against marijuana.
Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D, Moanalua) expressed reservations about the bill in the Judiciary Committee, noting that Honolulu police opposed the measure.
"I think drugs are one of the biggest problems in the whole state and sometimes you chip away (at the law)," he said.
The House passed an industrial hemp bill earlier in the session. Under the Senate version of the bill, growers would have to submit details of the project to police and that the project must get approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua) and her son, Peter, have been lobbying for the bill for three years.
Thielen said growing the plant has enormous economic potential for Hawaii. She said hemp could be grown for building materials, food, oils, shampoo or to be burned for energy.
Hawaii Revised Statutes