An update on past news

Saturday, May 26, 2001

Harry Ako and David West inspected some hemp plants growing
on their farm in February of last year. Hawaii has a distinct
advantage in producing hemp and hemp seeds because
of the ability to produce five crops per year.

Nation’s first legal
hemp farm continues to
flourish in Wahiawa

Question: What ever happened to the hemp farm in Wahiawa?

Answer: The nation's first legal hemp farm in 60 years had no problem getting its permit renewed last fall to continue research after two years of successful operation in Wahiawa, said Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R-Kailua), the state's leading hemp advocate.

Touted as the source of countless, diverse products, hemp is also called "industrial hemp" to further distinguish it from its look-alike cousin, marijuana. Even though hemp does not have the same hallucinogenic properties as marijuana, both are classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a controlled, illegal substance.

Thielen said the DEA has not yet submitted draft regulations allowing the farming of industrial hemp for publication in the Federal Register. But almost half the states in the nation have written resolutions calling for the legalization of hemp farming, she said.

President Bill Clinton renewed the permit in late October for only nine months, but Thielen said, "We don't anticipate a problem with the DEA." But she said it may take another year or two before the DEA moves on the public-hearing phase, adding, "It takes time to get the federal government to change direction."

The farm is about to move into the next phase of breeding the best seed for Hawaii's climate, she said. David West, the plant geneticist in charge of the farm's research, has been "extremely successful in bringing seeds in from all over the world" to determine what varieties are best for Hawaii, Thielen said.

"Hawaii has the opportunity to become the seed-breeding capital for hemp in the nation. ... We're way ahead of everyone," according to Thielen.

Hawaii also has the advantage of getting five crops per year when other places generally produce only one per year, she added.

Tom Kelly, head of the DEA in Hawaii, said "no problems" have been reported with the farm's security or meeting the strict regulations required of the experimental farm. "Random inspections" have been handled by Washington headquarters, he said.

The hemp farm was in the news this past week after the theft of some plants and seeds. Investigators believe the fenced-in lot was broken into last weekend.

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