Saturday, February 27, 1999

Diverse groups testify
for bill to allow a
10-acre test plot
of industrial hemp

Online directory to
legislators and their offices
By Pat Omandam


Legislature '99 A bill to allow cultivation of a test plot of industrial hemp in Hawaii is gaining support in the state Legislature, although lawmakers were told there are several remaining issues to hash out.

Robert Corso, Hawaii acting agent in charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, told members of a joint House committee yesterday the DEA is reviewing its security measures for the federally controlled substance.

But he said cultivation of a 10-acre test plot of industrial hemp could require elaborate security measures, such as an alarm system, 24-hour security guards, pressure sensitive devices and even use of a global positioning system to keep track of the plot.

While the DEA and the state would jointly monitor all phases of the research, Corso said it would be up to local jurisdiction to guard the property around the clock.

Overall, he believes the study will be an "extremely expensive, extensive proposition" once in place.

Also, Corso said the state must come up with a plan of what to do once the industrial hemp is fully grown. The state must detail how it will dispose of leaves, twigs and flowers to get at the stalk, from which industrial hemp is made, he said.

The House Judiciary and Public Safety committees yesterday deferred decision-making on HB 32 HD1, although a few members urged the bill be passed to the full House for a vote.

Republicans David Pendleton (R, Maunawili) and Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua) said there is economic potential in industrial hemp to help the state's diversified agricultural industry. They believe the state should study the possibility.

Most of the testimony yesterday favored passage of the bill, including support from the ILWU, the Libertarian Party of Hawaii, state Department of Agriculture, Life of the Land and hemp-clothing manufacturers.

Peter Thielen, a son of Rep. Thielen, said his local hemp-clothing company made $250,000 last year and is expected to nearly double that amount this year. He said he gets his industrial hemp from Canada, and previously from China.

After three years of lobbying and educating the state Legislature on the economic potential of industrial hemp, he hopes lawmakers this year will allow the study to proceed.

"Let's do something for Hawaii here," he said.

As amended, the bill allows privately funded industrial hemp research in Hawaii once the state Public Safety Department, the Justice Department and DEA issue permits to allow research of the plant. The Public Safety department and the DEA would monitor all phases of the research.

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