Travel Agents React to Possibility of Legal Marijuana in Hawaii

TravelPulse recently spoke with some Hawaii travel experts to get their opinions on Thursday’s decision by Hawaii lawmakers to unanimously approve a bill to advance legislation that would legalize marijuana use for adults 21 years and older.

Here’s what they had to say.

“If Hawaii passes legislation to allow marijuana legalization, I believe it will cause a surge in tourism for the islands, similar to what was seen in Colorado a few years back,” said Sarah Nelson, an advisor with Travel Leaders in Gilbert, Arizona.

According to a report on Marijuana Moment, the Hawaii bill would “allow adults 21 and older possess, cultivate and consume marijuana.”

“Hawaii is already a popular tourist destination for U.S. residents who are choosing to travel somewhere exotic without a passport,” said Nelson. “It’s fairly easy to come across marijuana while on the islands, but it’s illegal without a medical card. Making it legal recreationally could be a draw for travelers who live in states where it is still illegal and are interested in trying it while on vacation.”

Nelson also told TravelPulse she thinks the decision could benefit the smaller, lesser-known islands in the Aloha State.

“With Southwest Airlines soon flying into the destination, [Hawaii] will be even more accessible from the mainland,” she said. “I also see this as a boom for the islands that see less tourism than Oahu. And since the islands all offer their own charm, there’s another reason to enjoy the islands a little longer and see more of them.”

The bill will have to make its way through one to two other Senate panels before it makes it to a full Senate vote, according to Marijuana Moment. However, there is optimism for its passage in Hawaii’s Democratic-controlled state legislature.

“I’m pretty neutral on it,” said Neal Miller, owner of the Neal Miller Travel Company in Atlanta, Georgia. “I don’t think it will hurt the destination and, in my professional opinion, think it would benefit the destination if anything.”

Additionally, the government would license facilities to manufacture, test and sell cannabis, and sales would be subject to an excise tax and a 15 percent surcharge. Hawaii’s Department of Health would be responsible for regulating retail sales.

“I believe people go to Hawaii for the beauty of the islands and I don’t think that will change,” said Lena Brown, an advisor with Largay Travel in Waterbury, Connecticut. “Once the initial shock wears off, the tourism industry in Hawaii will not decline.”

Regardless of how agents feel about Hawaii’s plans to legalize marijuana, Nikki Miller, owner of Travel With Nikki In Portage, Michigan, said agents need to remind clients that marijuana is still illegal to travel with it.

“Under federal law, marijuana is still an illegal drug, which means that the area after the [Transportation Security Administration] security check is governed by federal agencies, and it is still illegal to possess or fly with marijuana,” said Miller. “This applies even if you are flying between two states where marijuana is legal, as you will be under federal laws during your flight.”

But Miller put it another way.

“General advice would be if you partake and enjoy legalized weed in Hawaii,” he said, “just make sure it stays in Hawaii.”

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