WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The demise of sugar has dealt a blow to the state's agriculture industry but University of Hawaii researchers are working on a potential alternative.
A report by scientists at the UH Waimanalo Research Station indicates that hemp can be commercially grown here. A study found that a single acre of land here can produce about 30 tons of hemp stock each year.
The study also found that an acre of hemp could also produce 30 tons of leaves and stem, which could be used to feed livestock.
"It's an amazing crop for Hawaii. With the sugar plantation shutting down on Maui, hemp is the natural replacement crop to go to Maui," said state Rep. Cynthia Thielen.
Hemp can be used in thousands of products including food, clothing, paper, rope and even building materials. And the UH study said that some subtropical varieties of hemp adapted well to Hawaii's climate.
"You end up with a hemp plant that will be 12 to 15 feet tall and it can actually grow that fast in 12 to 15 weeks," Thielen said.
The study comes on the heels of yesterday's announcement that HC&S is shutting down Hawaii's last sugar plantation and will lay off 675 workers.
HC&S said it is taking a close look at hemp.
It issued this statement today: "Once we are assured the activity is legal, we stand ready to begin trial plantings at HC&S," said Rick Volner, general manager of HC&S.
But there are hurdles. Even though hemp is legal here, it took UH researchers 11 months to get approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to import hemp seeds here. It could take even longer for a private company to start up their own hemp farm.