The Hawai`i Department of Agriculture has issued the first licenses to growers under the State’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program.
During the month of June, three industrial hemp licenses were issued to Gail Baber and Thomas Pace in Hawai`i County. An additional license was issued to Raymond Maki in Kauai. Each of the licenses were for 10 acres of land each.
Each license is valid for two years, as long as the licensee complies with the program rules, including submission of annual fees of $250, plus a $2 per acre assessment. The time from planting to harvest is estimated to be anywhere from three to six months.
“Hawai‘i’s first licensed hemp growers will help to demonstrate the real potential of the industrial hemp industry,” said Gov. David Ige. “We look forward to the entrepreneurial spirit that will help to invigorate and strengthen agriculture across the state.”
“With this new agricultural crop, the program aims to monitor and assess the best methods of cultivation in Hawaii’s growing conditions,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture. “The program will also follow the crop from seed to the development, manufacturing and marketing of hemp products.”
“June 2018 will be remembered as a historic month for Hawai`i’s farmers. In the coming years, it’s likely we’ll see our state become a leader in industrial hemp production and witness a cottage industry being developed around this incredible crop. Mahalo to the Governor and HDOA for helping get us to this point,” said State Senator Mike Gabbard.
A total of 10 applications have been received by HDOA’s Quality Assurance Branch since the program began in April 2018. HDOA will continue to process applications and issue licenses to qualified applicants on a quarterly basis.
Growers will be required to submit extensive reports on planting, harvesting and movement of their industrial hemp crop. In addition, the research nature of the pilot program requires that licensees track items such as production costs including pest management, water usage, security measures, labor, marketing and other cost factors. Routine sampling, testing (for THC and pesticides) and inspections of crops will also be mandatory during this program.
In granting licenses, HDOA considers the following factors:
- Completeness of applications
- Licensed to do business in Hawaii
- Agriculturally zoned land
- Legitimate Research Plan
- Best management plan for growing of hemp
- A laboratory provisionally certified or certified by the Hawaii Department of Health to test cannabis and is willing to collect samples from the growing location.
- Application Fee ($500 non-refundable)
The 11-page application for the program is available on the HDOA website.
In July 2016, Gov. Ige signed Act 228 and in July 2017 signed Act 199 (amendment), which established the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. HDOA then established the rules for the program which were approved by the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture in September 2017, and signed by Gov. Ige in September 2017.
Industrial hemp and marijuana are both members of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa L. However, industrial hemp refers to cannabis plants with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration at or below 0.3 percent, which is about 33 percent lower than the least potent marijuana. Although industrial hemp and marijuana may look the same, it is not possible to get a chemical high from industrial hemp.
Some of the challenges that HDOA in establishing the program included the importation of hemp seed which is considered by the federal government as a Schedule 1 Drug, which is highly regulated especially when transporting within and into the U.S. HDOA worked with federal and state drug enforcement agencies to successfully import the hemp seed varietal, Yuma, from China which will be used by the licensed growers. Based upon its own research and tests in Malawi and Australia, HDOA believes that the Yuma varietal is suitable to grow in Hawaii’s climate.
There are about 38 states that allow or are proposing to allow industrial hemp cultivation.