WAIMANALO, Oahu (AP) - Legally sanctioned industrial hemp is growing in Hawaii's soil for the first time in about 15 years.
Researchers, lawmakers and farmers sprinkled newly acquired hemp seeds into the ground at the University of Hawaii's Waimanalo Research Station during a ceremony Friday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
UH professor Harry Ako and other researchers will use their first 5 pounds of seed to study how tall the hemp plants will grow locally and how much water and fertilizer they'll require. They will also study how well the plants purify the soil and whether it is possible to grow three hemp crops a year.
Last year's federal Agricultural Act allows universities to grow hemp without a permit from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, but they still need a DEA permit to ship the seed to the U.S. and between states, officials said.
For state Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-Kailua-Kaneohe, the planting was part of a 20-year push to bring the crop to the islands. She said her son first suggested it to her as a way to help replace jobs lost amid the local sugar industry's decline. Thielen led efforts last year to pass into law a bill authorizing a two-year UH research study into hemp.
Both Ako and Thielen said Friday that there's no way a person can get high via hemp. Thielen and others have called for it to be removed from the federal controlled substances list, which classifies illicit drugs.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, has co-sponsored a federal bill that would remove industrial hemp from the list.