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Having spent most of my career working in tourism, I was surprised to read Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm’s commentary, which said that “Japanese tourists will stop coming” if Hawaii legalizes adult-use, recreational marijuana (“Legalizing marijuana will cause harm,” Star-Advertiser, Oct. 8).
The data from California shows just the opposite to be true. In 2015, California had 537,000 visitors from Japan; it legalized marijuana in 2016, and the visitor numbers steadily climbed up to 555,000 in 2019 — the last pre-pandemic tally. To be fair, Japanese visitors numbers are most impacted by the currency exchange rates.
In 1979, Operation Green Harvest wiped out the supply of marijuana in Hawaii, triggering a crystal meth epidemic that continues to overwhelm our streets and courts today. Japanese tourists, and most others, are more concerned by the sight of people ravaged by chronic addiction to crystal meth than they are frightened by a stoner with the munchies.
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