It has now been over a year since the federal government freed hemp from the Schedule I Drug designation through the 2018 Farm Bill.

States like Kentucky, Colorado, Oregon, Montana and North Dakota have all widely expanded their industrial hemp programs, implemented manufacturing/production procedures, and have truly taken advantage of all that this lucrative agricultural product has to offer.

So why hasn’t Hawaii?

Because hemp hysteria runs rampant at the Capitol.

Hawaii’s unique climate allows for three different hemp crop seasons, more than any other place in the country. Hemp would be an excellent replacement on agricultural lands formerly used for sugarcane and would bioremediate the soil. There has been no shortage of interest in both cultivation/production sectors and consumer markets, as hemp has been shown to be a profitable, environmentally beneficial, incredibly versatile plant.

Hemp contains less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis, making it virtually impossible for anyone to get “high” off it. Your average medical strain of cannabis contains somewhere between 15-25% THC in comparison.

With all these economic and environmental benefits for Hawaii, it is confounding that there are bills like House Bill 2102 HD1 trying to restrict the sale and production of hemp products, most egregiously for people under the age of 21.

Rep Cynthia Thielen speaks in support of Hemp during floor session.
Rep. Cynthia Thielen speaking in support of hemp during a floor session in April 2019. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

The bill, though seemingly defaulting to the FDA, does not actually recognize its policies regarding hemp. It completely ignores that there are already three “generally recognized as safe” notices for the hemp seed-derived food ingredients, hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder, and hemp seed oil, which the FDA has made legal to market in human foods.

It also fails to recognize that under the 2018 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to premarket approval by the FDA, except for most color additives. Certain cosmetic ingredients are prohibited or restricted by regulation, but currently that is not the case for any cannabis or cannabis-derived ingredients.

In addition, the bill also seems to contradict itself in that it states a cosmetic shall not be considered adulterated or misbranded solely by the inclusion of hemp or cannabinoids, but then it prohibits the sale of hemp products to anyone under the age of 21.

Products that have been on shelves in retailers like Costco, TJ Maxx, Whole Foods, etc. ranging from lotion and shampoo to cereal and protein shakes, would require an ID to purchase. Hemp is not a drug, but it is being treated as such in HB 2102 HD1.

It’s both hopeful and frustrating to watch so many other states in the country establish flourishing industrial hemp programs, while Hawaii, a place nearly perfect for this crop, remains stagnant.

The Legislature needs to reject hemp hysteria, which hurts our farmers and consumers who want and benefit from using these products.

HB 2102 HD1 will be heard in the House Finance committee on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 4 p.m. in House Conference Room 308.

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