Lawmakers Pass Historic Commercial Hemp Bill, Open Doors For Hawaii's Slice of $22B Industry
News Release from Rep Cynthia Thielen April 26, 2019
Hemp is happening for Hawaii, following today's passage of SB1353, requiring the State Agriculture Department to establish a permanent industrial hemp program in alignment with Congress' 2018 federal Farm Act legalizing industrial hemp farming nationwide and removing hemp from Schedule I of the out-of-date Controlled Substances Act. Hemp lacks the chemical composition to produce any "high."
The new $22 billion-a-year industrial hemp business for the U.S. is significant for Hawaii, where the climate makes it possible to harvest up to three crops annually, more than anywhere else in the country.
The bill was hard-fought and included pushes from special-interest alliances, which sought to give advantages to a select few farmers by otherwise limiting acreage; criminalizing the smallest harvesting infractions that could ultimately hurt small farmers by incarcerating them; and denying licensing for other individuals. None of these measures are included in the federal Farm Act.
Ultimately, Representative Cynthia Thielen – the Legislature's longest-advocating member for industrial hemp after 29 years of leading its public-education campaign, promoting the crop and highlighting its viability as a replacement for Hawaii's recently defunct sugar-cane industry – and Agriculture Committee Chair Richard Creagan were able to convince Senate colleagues to pass this House-drafted Conference Committee Bill, putting all our state's farmers on equal ground.
"The House draft aligns with the federal Farm Act and opens hemp farming to all of Hawaii's farmers who can now apply for permits," Thielen said.
"This is a great day for hemp and farming in Hawaii," Creagan said. "It took lots of work but we came to an agreement. I want to thank and commend Senator Gabbard for his graciousness and willingness to compromise on legislation important not only for the hemp industry, but also for our entire agricultural community's well-being. I especially want to thank Rep. Thielen for her staunch support during these sometimes contentious discussions."
The bill becomes effective upon Governor Ige's signature, following its passage through Third Reading in both Houses.
SB1353: Text, Status