Industrial Hemp Trial Program to Begin

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The State of Hawai‘i’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program will begin accepting applications for licenses to grow the crop beginning Wednesday, April 18, 2018. The objective of the pilot program is to allow the cultivation of industrial hemp in Hawai‘i for the purposes of agricultural and academic research. The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) will open the program incrementally beginning with the June 2018 licensing period and will issue licenses on a quarterly basis. There is an application fee of $500 and it is non-refundable.

Industrial Hemp

“Many believe that industrial hemp can be an important crop in Hawai‘i. This pilot program is a strong and prudent step in helping to determine the viability of this crop in Hawai‘i,” said Gov. David Ige. “The Department of Agriculture has conducted extensive planning and has overcome significant legal obstacles to launch this program.”

In July 2016, Gov. Ige signed Act 228 and in July 2017 signed Act 199 (amendment), which established the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. HDOA then established the rules for the program which were approved by the Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture in September 2017, and signed by Gov. Ige in September 2017.

“In establishing this program, we had to consider many complex issues including growing climate, seed varieties, laboratory testing, legal issues and program management,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture. “From here, we will depend on the licensed growers to raise the crop and develop their specialty market.”


State Senator Mike Gabbard, Chair of the Agriculture and Environment Committee and introducer of the legislation which became Act 228 and Act 199 said, “I commend the Governor and Department of Agriculture for working hard to make our pilot hemp program a reality. I’m convinced that Hawai‘i is well-positioned to become a leader in hemp and we’ll have many farmers applying to be licensees. My vision is that we’ll one day, in the not too distant future, have a hemp cottage industry that’s the envy of the world.”

Some of the challenges that HDOA had to overcome included the importation of hemp seed that is considered by the federal government as a Schedule 1 Drug, which is highly regulated especially when transporting within and into the U.S. HDOA worked with federal and state drug enforcement agencies to successfully import the hemp seed varietal, Yuma, from China which will be provided to the licensed growers. Based upon its own research and tests in Malawi and Australia, HDOA believes that the Yuma varietal is suitable to grow in Hawai‘i’s climate.

Industrial hemp and marijuana are both members of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa L. However, industrial hemp refers to cannabis plants with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration at or below 0.3 percent, which is about 33 percent lower than the least potent marijuana. Although industrial hemp and marijuana may look the same, it is not possible to get a chemical high from industrial hemp.


In granting licenses, HDOA will be considering the following factors:

  • Completeness of applications
  • Licensed to do business in Hawai‘i
  • Agriculturally zoned land
  • Legitimate Research Plan
  • Best management plan for growing of hemp
  • A laboratory provisionally certified or certified by the Hawai‘i Department of Health to test cannabis and is willing to collect samples from the growing location.
  • Application Fee ($500 non-refundable)

Each license is valid for two years, as long as the licensee complies with the program rules, including submission of annual fees of $250, plus a $2 per acre assessment.

Licensed growers will be required to submit extensive reports on planting, harvesting and movement of industrial hemp and due to the research nature of the pilot program, should track items such as production costs including pest management, water usage, security measures, labor, marketing and other cost factors. Routine sampling, testing (for THC and pesticides) and inspections of crops will also be mandatory during this program.


The program will be administered by HDOA’s Quality Assurance Branch.

There are about 38 states that allow or proposing to allow industrial hemp cultivation.

The 11-page application for the program is available on the HDOA website at

Questions about the program may be sent to: [email protected] or call (808) 832-0676.

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