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News, Politics

Hawaii’s New Hemp Regulations Could Deter Cultivators

Ashley Priest

by Ashley Priest

October 4, 2021 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 4 Minutes
Hawaii’s New Hemp Regulations Could Deter Cultivators

Hawaii has put forth new regulations surrounding the cultivation of hemp, a class of cannabis plants that contain 0.3% or less THC. When it comes to hemp—and the world of cannabis in general—frequent and chaotic changes are the name of the game. Although the U.S. federal government has recognized hemp as a viable crop and taken measures to legalize it, each state has set its own specific laws and compliance measures around the plant.

Called “the new billion-dollar crop” by Popular Mechanics magazine in the 1930s, hemp has seen a wide variety of legality changes in various states over the years. In Hawaii specifically, where over 30% of the land is used for farming, industrial hemp regulation has been a rollercoaster of a ride.

The History of Hemp Regulations in Hawaii

With the criminalization of cannabis in 1937, hemp was banned throughout the country, including Hawaii. Things began to change in 2014 with the introduction of the Farm Bill, which legalized hemp research programs. In July 2016 Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed an act establishing Hawaii’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, which allowed for the cultivation of hemp for the purpose of agricultural and academic research.

An estimated 57 licensed cultivators took part in the pilot program until its end in 2020. In 2019 the state had to destroy 18 hemp crops that tested too high for THC, though program coordinators stressed that this was a normal part of the research process. With Hawaii’s unique climate compared to other states, crop genetics can vary.

In February 2020 lawmakers in Hawaii set forth new regulations surrounding the crop. Following the success of the pilot program, they allowed for the agricultural production of hemp and regulated the manufacturing and sales of hemp-derived products. Additionally, they implemented compliance measures that required testing and labeling to help provide customers with transparency regarding the products they were purchasing.

The Newest Hemp Regulations in Hawaii

In mid-August, Hawaii regulators implemented new rules regarding hemp production and hemp products in the state. An Aug. 9 announcement by the Hawaii Department of Health’s Food and Drug Branch stated,

“These rules are the next step toward regulating the growing hemp industry in Hawaii in a way that provides local hemp farmers a legal pathway to bring consumable hemp products to market while protecting consumers by requiring lab testing for contaminants and labeled cannabinoid content.”

The new rules and regulations officially ban vape liquids that contain cannabinoids derived from industrial hemp plants. These rules also banned CBD gummies and beverages that contain CBD. This comes less than a year after the state legalized the sale of cannabinoid-infused edibles in state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries.

In one of the most shocking moves, these regulations also banned the sale of smokeable hemp products, aka hemp flower. Per the new rules, hemp-derived cannabinoid products such as CBD products can only be sold if they are in the form of a tablet, capsule, soft gel, gelcap, powder, or tincture. Additionally, topical products meant to be applied to the skin and hair are also legal.

The Future of Hemp in Hawaii

Hawaii’s environmental conditions paired with strict regulations around hemp could lead to disaster for the state’s hemp market. When it comes to hemp cultivation, Hawaii is already at a disadvantage with its short days that can trigger the flowering phase of hemp plants much earlier than desired, in addition to the high winds and humidity that can wreak havoc on any crop. Even if growers find ways to combat these issues, they could still be deterred due to the limited market for products.

Although Hawaii’s hemp pilot program ended, growers in the state can still apply for a hemp production license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In order to qualify, they must meet a short list of requirements. These requirements have been defined by the USDA Domestic Hemp Production Program as follows:

  • Anyone convicted of a felony related to a controlled substance, whether it was under state or federal law, is prohibited from receiving a license to produce hemp or from being a key participant in any business that has been licensed to produce hemp for up to 10 years following their date of conviction.
  • Hemp can only be grown in the state agricultural district.
  • Pimp cannot be grown within 500 ft of any property that has a playground, childcare facility, or school.
  • Hemp may also not be grown within if 500 ft of any existing residential house, apartment, dwelling unit, or residential structure not owned or controlled by the license holder.
  • Hemp is also prohibited from being grown inside of any house, dwelling unit, or residential structuring, including apartments, duplexes, and condos.

For a full list of regulations and information regarding hemp cultivation in Hawaii, you can refer to the state of Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Hemp Production resource page.

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