Monday, March 18, 2013

House Bill 154 passes, ready for Senate in Hawaii

An industrial hemp field in France. The United States is the only industrialized nation that prohibits the cultivation of hemp. (image: Aleks/WikiMedia)
An industrial hemp field in France.
HONOLULU, HI — A bill that would establish a two-year hemp pilot program in Hawaii will advanced to the floor of the Senate for a vote after passing two separate committees Thursday. The bill passed unanimously on the floor of the House earlier this month.

If passed, House Bill 154 HD2 would allow the Board of Agriculture to establish a two year industrial hemp research 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.

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