In 1999, I was asked by Hawaii State Representative Cynthia Thielen to come to Hawaii and assume responsibility for the Hemp Project. Representative Thielen had been building support for this project for several years. By March 1999, it became clear the bill (Act 305) would pass and get the Governor's signature.
Representative Thielen had lined up a source of funds (Alterna) to get the effort rolling. I knew her through our association with the North American Industrial Hemp Council. Because of my involvement, my research, my profession (Plant Breeder/Agronomist) and my willingness, I was the one to take on this mission. And since I had been proselytizing for hemp for several years, writing and educating, it was time for me to put up or shut up.
For the next 5 years, this undertaking would be the focus of my life. I knew entering into it that it would be a series of obstacles: confront; proceed; progress. I also—perhaps more realistically than some— understood the biological challenge that I faced. Many believed that hemp had once been grown on the islands. I had seen no convincing evidence that cannabis hemp—a temperate climate fiber— had ever been grown in the tropics. There were other "hemps"— "Manila hemp" (abaca, banana family) for one—that were tropical crops. For reasons of photoperiodism, European hemp varieties wouldn't grow tall in Hawaii. (I told everyone.) But with a wide collection of germplasm, I could overcome that obstacle. That would be my challenge.
And—perhaps more than others, as well— I was already cynical about the political obstacles I would face. The issues would be manifold. But it was one of those rare opportunities, how could I refuse? "Come to Hawaii and grow hemp."
"Yeah, ok." It was going to be a trip.
One day, I remarked to a friend as we stood looking at the tall, barbed-wire topped cyclone fence surrounding the Project, that it was a "performance piece." I said, "Conceptually, it lies somewhere between a work by Christo and The Bridge on the River Kwai." We laughed, but the image stayed with me. I didn't care much for having to build such an enclosure around this benign crop in obesiance to an authority I had serious issues with. But I was becoming attached to it.
Anticipating that this performance would have a here-today/gone-tomorrow fate, I endeavored to keep a photographic record.
During the core years of the project, I made websites as a means of reporting on the Project's activities to the State of Hawaii. I tried to minimize the Project's public exposure while it was in operation. I did not publicize these websites. Now I am making them available here.
THE HAWAII INDUSTRIAL HEMP PROJECT:
- Official Report of First Year
- Summary Photo Tour of 1999-2001: Inception
- Summary Photo Tour of 2001-2002: Breeding
There is more to the story than is represented in just these sites. Watch this page for more to come.
David P. West, Ph.D.