A bill that would legalize hemp for the purpose of cleaning contaminated soils made its way to the Hawaii State Senate after passing the House of Representatives last week. If approved, the measure would also allow hemp to be utilized for biofuels as part of a research program run by the University of Hawaii.

However, even if the bill passes the Senate, Hawaii would still need federal approval as the US government maintains a ban on hemp. Nearly a dozen states are currently awaiting federal approval to grow industrial hemp.

In the text of the bill, hemp is favored for environmental clean-ups because it grows quickly and extracts toxins without having to remove any of the contaminated topsoil. Furthermore, hemp is unaffected by those same toxins, critical because Hawaii’s extensive agricultural endeavors have left so many toxins spread throughout the soil. Hemp was used by the former USSR to clean radioactive toxins caused by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

The Hawaii bill also would allow studying the use of hemp for biofuel. Hawaii has biodiesel plants in operation, which presently provide eight percent of the state’s biofuel requirements for ground transportation. Using hemp for biodiesel would further reduce Hawaii’s reliance on importing fuel.