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OPINION: Blazing a trail in tourism

May 28th, 2018 | | Accommodation

Legalising recreational marijuana could help revive the Northern Territory’s struggling tourism industry. Debbie Turner, marketing manager for Darwin backpackers Youth Shack and Chillis, said legalisation would lead to an influx of tourists keen to get high, similar to that experienced by states in the US that decriminalised the drug.

Ms Turner said, if done properly, pot tourism would give the NT a point of difference and lure tourists away from the east coast. The youth market in particular would benefit, she said. The impacts would flow on to the rest of the community, including the hospitality industry which relies heavily on a seasonal backpacker workforce.

Ms Turner said the Territory needed to be bold to get tourism back on track. “We’ve had the worst three years on record,” she said. “We’re working with the tourism commission and with government to try to turn that around but it’s tough. Every industry has ups and downs, but this is the longest down period we’ve had.”

Australia lagged behind many other countries in drug policy, she said. „I’m not a smoker but I’m very pro-legalisation of marijuana for medical use and for people to smoke. I’d rather deal with someone who had smoked a joint than someone who’s on crack or had been drinking alcohol,” she said.

The Government this week released the terms of reference for its parliamentary inquiry into drug and alcohol harm minimisation strategies. The inquiry will include a review of police and criminal responses to drug use.

On Monday, Chief Minister Michael Gunner indicated he was willing to look at full legalisation of recreational cannabis use. He referenced „Amsterdam-style” models as something which could be explored in the NT.

“I do think (decriminalisation) is going to become a more common topic in Australia and at the moment we have shown we are not as progressive as other parts of the world,” he said. „We’re probably behind the conversation in some respects in how you handle drugs in this country.”

A plan put forward by the Greens to legalise recreational cannabis nationally would raise close to $2 billion in new taxes a year, according to costings from the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Source: NT News