Increased Colorado Homeless Tied to Legal Pot

Colorado Pot

When Colorado voters passed state constitutional Amendment 64 by a margin of 54-43 in the 2012 election, they legalized marijuana for personal use with certain limitations.

Today the state is suffering from the law of unintended consequences.

Colorado has become a national magnet for pot smokers who do not want to deal with drug dealers . . . people suffering from painful and debilitating diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis . . . and young people – many below the age of 18 – who like the idea of blending into a population where the scent of pot smoke is not only accepted, its expected.

That’s not all.

A majority of pot smokers who are showing up at legal marijuana dispensaries in Denver and across the state are homeless and dependent on government agencies for housing, food, medical services and other welfare state programs. As a result, the state’s supply of beds in shelters is nearing exhaustion.

According to Brett Van Sickle, director of Denver’s Salvation Army Crossroads Shelter, “the older ones are coming for medical (marijuana)” . . . while “the younger ones are coming just because it’s legal” and that they have had to more than doubled their staff to deal with the influx.

Sickle added that the shelter conducted a survey of an estimated 500 new homeless moving to Colorado between July and September and learned that roughly 30 percent had relocated for pot – mostly to Denver.

Right now homeless advocates are awaiting the results of a study conducted by the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Criminal Justice and Criminology Department to learn if there is any direct relationship between legal marijuana and rates of homelessness.

Van Sickle reports that his shelter prohibits marijuana, other drugs and drug paraphernalia and that the homeless who stay at the shelter must leave it to light up adding that the confiscation of pot, pipes and other drug paraphernalia has increased although no numbers exist to say how much.

As mentioned, Colorado is seeing younger homeless people too. One facility called Urban Peak that targets services to youth 15-25 years of age have seen an increase of almost 40% in the number of homeless youth between May and July this year over the same period a year earlier.

It is worth noting that many of the older homeless live on disability benefits and use their benefits to buy pot since there is no prohibition against using disability and other cash based entitlement programs to do so.