A battle could be brewing when it comes to obtaining hemp seeds here in Hawaii.
There's a growth in industrial hemp research across the nation and lawmakers are ready to see the University of Hawaii start turning dirt on its first planned project.
"It's terribly important for our farmers and for our economy in Hawaii," said Rep. Cynthia Thielen.
Thielen has been a longtime proponent of industrial hemp. She says in addition to hemp being used to decontaminate soil, it can also be made into building materials.
"We can do such things as growing our building materials actually out of the soil. Farmers can eventually be able to plant hemp, turn it into hemp-crete, hemp-lime binder [that's] termite proof and fire retardant," said Thielen. "A wonderful type of building equipment that means we wouldn't have to import the drywall and the other chemical based materials from the mainland."
She provided several other examples of hemp use from bags to soap. Thielen estimates the United States industrial hemp market at $500 million per year.
"There are 25,000 uses or products that can be made out of hemp. None of which will get you high," said Thielen.
The catch for Hawaii is seeing what the state of Kentucky just experienced. When the state tried to bring in hemp seeds, the Drug Enforcement Administration stepped in and seized them. That prompted a long legal fight.
"Kentucky had to sue the DEA to get its seeds released. They brought it in according to federal law, in place … and then the DEA seized it," said Thielen.
The standoff recently concluded with the seeds finally being delivered.
Thielen says if Hawaii has to fight that fight, it'll be worth it.
"We're going to go through the same process Kentucky went through. We believe once these universities or Department of Ag(riculture) sponsor project come up with research findings, hemp will finally be freed again," said Thielen.
UH says it's been given an area about the size of a football field to plant the crop on Hickam Air Force Base.
The school will be required to report its findings to lawmakers in 2016.
Thielen says the state is currently going through the permit process to get the seeds.