Industrial hemp project shut down
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau
The state's only industrial hemp research project shut down yesterday, with its operator blaming "bureaucratic runaround" from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration for its demise.
"You can bang your head on a rock for so long and eventually you want to stop banging your head on it, and today I stopped," said Dave West, manager of the Hawai'i Industrial Hemp Research Project.
Two DEA agents yesterday supervised the destruction of remaining seeds at the Wahiawa site, a requirement after West announced that the one-person operation was shutting down.
Briane Grey, DEA assistant special agent in charge, said that six pounds of hemp seeds and no plants were destroyed.
The privately financed project planted its first seeds in December 1999 with the hope of exploring the possibility of using industrial hemp as a cash crop for the state's struggling agricultural industry.
State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-50th (Kailua, Mokapu), who helped push through legislative approval that allowed the project to proceed, said, "The disappointing thing is we had hoped that industrial hemp would help Hawai'i's agricultural and small-business companies like it is in other nations where farmers are allowed to grow the crop."
Thielen noted that hemp products are being imported into the United States and Canada for the building of homes and other products.
West said that in the past two years, the DEA has stalled in granting the project an annual controlled substance license that is needed to bring in and export the seeds, which are defined by the DEA as schedule 1 controlled substances.
His last license expired in May 2003, and he said he has received no word on whether he has been granted a new one. The same thing happened a year ago, when he went 11 months without a valid license before being approved for one.
"For a few years now, we've been operating in this kind of administrative limbo," he said.
West said hemp research has been discouraged by the DEA since President Bush's election.
Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at email@example.com or 525-8070.