Monday, March 25, 2013
Hemp Bill Passes Second Reading in Hawaii Senate
By Thomas H. Clarke on March 24, 2013
HONOLULU, HI — A bill that would establish a two-year hemp pilot program in Hawaii passed a second reading with amendments on the floor of the Senate last week, and has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee. The bill passed unanimously on the floor of the House earlier this month, .
If given favorable approval by the Ways and Means Committee, the bill will be refereed back to the full Senate for a third, and final, reading and vote on the bill. Because the bill has been amended in both the Senate and House, the two chambers will need to agree on the final language of the bill before being sent to the Governor’s desk.
If passed in its most recent form, House Bill 154 HD2 SD1 would allow the director of the college of tropical agriculture and human resources at the University of Hawaii at Manoa to establish a two-year industrial hemp remediation and biofuel crop pilot program.
A primary focus of the proposed research would be phytoremediation, a process by which the hemp plant draws toxins out of the soil and processes them safely through its roots, stalk, branches, and leaves.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture recommended the bill pass by a 7-0 vote Thursday, shortly before the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment recommended the bill’s passage 5-0.
The bill now advances to the floor of the Senate for a vote, but a vote has not yet been scheduled on the bill.
House lawmakers passed an amended version of the original bill, which expands the research to include hemp’s value as an alternative biofuel for Hawaii.
“People now understand how industrial hemp can benefit Hawaii,” said State Representative Cynthia Thielen (R-Kaneohe Bay), who cosponsored HB154. “The hemp plant itself uses phytoremediation to cleanse the soil of pesticides, heavy metals, oil, and other toxins.”
“Adding industrial hemp as a source of biofuel is another avenue worth pursuing,” Thielen said. “Reducing our dependence on foreign oil through the use of a renewable resource would be very good for Hawaii.”
The bill was introduced by Thielen, Speaker Joseph Souki, Representative Derek Kawakami, Representative Sylvia Luke, and Representative Angus McKelvey in January.
Cultivation of industrial hemp is currently prohibited by the federal government, but legislation has been introduced in Congress to allow the commercial production of hemp in the United States, the only industrialized nation in the world to prohibit the cultivation of hemp.
Hemp products can legally be sold in the United States, but the hemp must be imported from other countries.