Hawaii bill would establish a hemp remediation, biofuel program

By Erin Voegele | March 29, 2013

Pending legislation in Hawaii aims to develop a two-year industrial hemp remediation and biofuel crop pilot program. The program would be administered by the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The appropriations bill, H.B. 154 H.D. 2 S.D. 1, was first introduced in the Hawaii House of Representatives in mid-January. It passed in the House on Feb. 28 and was transmitted to the state Senate. It has already been passed by two Senate committees, and was referred to the Senate Ways and Means committee earlier this week.

The legislation addresses phytoremediation, which involves the use of plants and trees to remove toxins, such as metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives and crude oil, from soil. According to the bill, the legislature considers hemp to be a superior phytoremediator because it grows quickly and can extract toxins without the need to remove any of the contaminated top soil. The plant is also able to grow unaffected by the toxins it accumulates, features a fast rate of adsorption and can bind compound contaminants from the air and soil. In addition, the bill points out that industrial hemp is an environmentally friendly and efficient feedstock for biofuel.

The measure allows the director of the college of agriculture and human resources at the University of Hawaii Manoa to establish a two-year industrial hemp remediation and biofuel crop pilot program, provided the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration issues the university a federally-controlled substance registration for the program.

Assuming the program moves forward, the director is to submit a final report, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature at least 20 days prior to the start of the 2015 regular session. The report would include information on the rate of contamination uptake from the soil and water, as well as the mode of uptake, the rate of carbon fixation, where contaminants are fixed in the hemp, and what contaminants are stabilized in the plants. The report is also directed to address what contaminants on the site need additional treatment, disposal method for contaminants, a baseline comparison of plants cultivated in clean soil, and the viability of hemp as a biofuel feedstock.