Saturday, February 6, 1999

Hemp crop study
too much for Hilo
campus to handle

By Rod Thompson


HILO -- A study of industrial hemp as a new cash crop for Hawaii will cost much more than the $100,000 the Legislature proposes to spend, says Jack Fujii, University of Hawaii-Hilo College of Agriculture dean.

And even with more money, UH-Hilo can't do the entire job, Fujii says.

Fujii was one of several officials giving lukewarm support at a House Agriculture Committee hearing last night to a bill calling for a study of the nondrug form of the marijuana plant.

The bill was introduced by Big Island Reps. Jerry Chang, Eric Hamakawa and Dwight Takamine.

Advocates say the nondrug plant is good for fibers for clothing and seeds for food.

"Right now, today, we're wearing it, we're eating it, we're using it. We'd like to grow it," said longtime advocate Aaron Anderson.

Fujii said the College of Agriculture can only test one of the several types of growing conditions on the island.

The bill calls for harvesting tests requiring more land than the college has, he said.

The college also doesn't have staff or equipment for testing, Fujii said.

State Agriculture Chairman James Nakatani said the bill should be rewritten to use only private funds.

David Blane of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism gave the bill "very guarded support."

The Hawaii Island Economic Development Board submitted testimony showing falling demand for hemp.

In 1964 about 1.3 million acres of hemp were grown worldwide. By 1998 the acreage was down to 166,000.

"The world is not exactly beating a path to industrial hemp producers," said Hawaii County police Maj. Morton Carter in opposition.

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