The University of Hawaii has received a permit from federal Drug Enforcement Administration to import industrial hemp seeds from Australia.

The seeds will be used for Hawaii’s Industrial Hemp Research Project, which was created via a state law in 2014.

“This project is just the first step in establishing Hawaii as a leader in the growth and production of industrial hemp and its products,” Rep. Cynthia Thielen (Kailua-Kaneohe Bay) said in a press release Wednesday.

Thielen, a Republican who has long supported industrial hemp in Hawaii, said there was a delay in the permitting process because hemp seeds are considered Schedule I drugs by the feds and so require DEA approval before being imported, bought or sold.

Seattle Hemp Fest

Seattle Hemp Fest, 2011.

Flickr: Chas Redmond

Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, and hemp comes from the same Cannabis sativa plant, but won’t you get you high.

According to Thielen’s office, UH Professor Harry Ako will be the lead researcher on the hemp project investigating the use of industrial hemp as a phytorediator, and as a biofuel. Phytoremediation involves the “direct use of green plants to stabilize or reduce contamination in soils which is needed to rejuvenate contaminated agricultural lands.”

Ako said in a statement, “I am looking forward to planting and cultivating this important crop which has so much potential for Hawaii’s agricultural future. It is exciting knowing that the University of Hawaii, and our state, is at the forefront in bringing industrial hemp back to our farmers as a crop which offers so much for so many.”

Hemp has a variety of uses, according to the Hemp Basics website, including in food products and as fiber for clothing and construction materials.

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