Senator: After cannabis legalized, record-breaking number of visitor arrivals in 2019

Senator Clynt Ridgell (file photo)

This last month, as the Cannabis Control Board (Board) continued their diligent efforts to finalize the industry’s rules and regulations, the Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) and some businessmen have raised concerns that cannabis will hurt the tourism industry, when actually, GVB’s FY 2019 Arrival Summary reports that even after the legalization of adult-use cannabis early in the year, Guam had record-breaking tourism numbers, Sen Clint Ridgell said.

The Cannabis Industry Act was passed, and adult-use cannabis was legalized on April 4, 2019, the same year in which the top number of visitor arrivals in Guam’s history was achieved, according to GVB.

“Not only was tourism thriving throughout the entire year, but after adult-use cannabis was legalized on Guam, we saw the best month in its tourism history in August of 2019, with a total of 159,856 visitors welcomed into our island. Concurrently, GVB also found through exit surveys and other data collections that tourism spending also increased at about 52.3% from the previous year,” said Ridgell, who authored the Cannabis Industry Act.

According to GVB’s testimony for the Cannabis Industry Act during the public hearing in March of 2019, the tourism industry, “… expressed serious concerns about the legalization of recreational cannabis and the unintended ramifications it will have on tourism.”

After the bill was passed and signed into law, the only ramification seen was the best year in Guam’s tourism history.

“Despite record tourism numbers after the legalization of cannabis, GVB is again stoking unfounded fears that cannabis will hurt tourism all while ignoring the data in front of them,” said Senator Clynton E. Ridgell.

Because of GVB’s initial concerns, the Guam Legislature included a provision in the Cannabis Industry Act that required an economic impact study be done to analyze the impacts of cannabis on tourism. The law required that GVB be responsible for the procurement of the study and even responsible for determining the parameters of the study.

GVB, in fact, submitted this study to the cannabis board on March 13, 2020, which was then adopted by the board and submitted to the Legislature on October 19, 2020. This study, which accounted for cultural opposition to cannabis from Guam’s tourism market countries, still found that Guam could receive an additional 31,500 visitors and would generate an estimated $133 million dollars in additional revenues for Guam’s economy, annually.

“If these concerns brought up this month were of dire urgency to GVB, it is puzzling why they were unable to address them in this study that they were in charge of before they submitted it to the Board for adoption. Now they are claiming that cannabis will hurt the tourism industry, a statement that directly contradicts their own work, the work of the dedicated researchers they commissioned, and overall, projects their unfounded opposition to the growth of this industry and the visitor industry alike,” Senator Ridgell said.

He added: “It seems to me as if GVB paid a company to conduct a study, but they didn’t like the outcome of the study they paid for so they made up their own numbers. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

(Senator Clynt Ridgell News Release)