I have to admit, when I clicked through this article and learned that Hawaii is showing strong support for marijuana legalization, I snickered. Because of course Hawaii! Right or wrong, our country's 50th state has earned a reputation for being, shall we say, extremely pot-friendly.
Hawaii legalized medical marijuana way back in 2000, and a new survey shows that the state's residents are leaning strongly towards supporting total legalization. 57 percent of Hawaiians were in favor of legalization, and only 40 percent were opposed. This is a 20 percent increase in support since the last similar poll was conducted in 2005.
The economic impact of legalizing and taxing marijuana would be significant for Hawaii. It would save the state about $12 million in not having to police, prosecute, and jail marijuana offenders. While at the same time it would bring in an additional $11 million in sales tax. Thus effectively adding an extra $23 million to the cash-strapped state's budget.
That's a substantial amount, for a state that currently carries the highest total state debt per capita (approximately $33,000 per person) in the nation. One of Hawaii's biggest issues, financially speaking, is the state's tiny tax base: with only 1.3 million residents, there's only so much tax you can collect. And while the tourist and pineapple industries are thriving, that's still not enough to overcome the state's huge cost of living overhead, given that nearly everything has to be shipped in thousands of miles from the mainland. The state government is deeply in debt, and legalizing marijuana could basically amount to a Gold Rush: uncovering a sudden resource of funding, as if by magic.
Perhaps best of all, unlike Washington and Colorado, Hawaii is already fully equipped to strip tourists of cash. I mean, to serve as a tourist destination. Hawaii has been a popular tourist destination for decades, and it has the tourist centers, hotels, and puka shell vendors ready to go.
Faced with having to decide between visiting Washington, Colorado, or Hawaii in order to enjoy legal marijuana on a pot vacation, I strongly suspect most people would choose Hawaii. Thus, until marijuana legalization has become the norm, Hawaii is perfectly poised to win this particular form of marijuana-related arbitrage.
If marijuana tourism will be big bucks, a lot of those bucks would certainly be winging their way across the Pacific to Hawaii. In fact, it may be a "careful what you wish for" scenario for Hawaiian residents, who are already pretty tired of dealing with stoned tourists every day! But that's the price for living in paradise.