Hokkaido city grows hemp to promote economic development

February 16th, 2009 – Despite the bad impression many have of hemp due to a perceived rise in marijuana use, Hidetaro Funayama believes that growing the plant for its many industrial uses could create a buzz for the city of Kitami on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk in northeastern Hokkaido.
The plant is grown on a plot of land on a hill slightly out of the center of the city with a population of some 126,000. A 2.7-meter-tall fence covers it with a grating.
Funayama, 58, represents a group dealing with a city development project aimed at growing hemp without a narcotic component for production of construction materials and Japanese ”washi” paper.
He has been working on the cultivation of hemp since 2006 after visiting Germany, a nation considered to be advanced in hemp processing for industrial use, in 2003. He learned that Germans made heavy use of the plant as eco-friendly material and interior finishing material for deluxe automobiles.
Kitami’s periphery is known as a natural growth area for hemp.
Funayama said hemp keeps growing no matter how many times local officials try to get rid of it. In summer, plants as high as 4 meters pack the land used for cultivation.
The Hokkaido prefectural government recognized the land as a special place for the growth of hemp for industrial use last August in response to an application filed by the Kitami municipality. Full article here.

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