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Legalize Pot, Increase Homelessness

By | Aug 4, 2014

weedWe have spent decades developing best practices, analyzing data, and re-prioritizing funding. We have dedicated years to promoting “housing first,” rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing. We have attended thousands of conferences, forums, and workshops. And, now, I think this country has finally figured out how to end homelessness.

The answer? Don’t legalize marijuana in your state.

Okay, so this supposition has not been field tested yet. There’s no national symposium highlighting it as a solution, and communities are not using it as a best practice.

But, if you ask the front-line homeless service providers in the state of Colorado, they will tell you that homelessness has increased since marijuana became legal.

I know this sounds like a stereotypical perspective on homelessness—as if everyone living on the streets is a “pothead”—but here’s the alleged issue:

Leaders in Colorado claim that homeless youth from the rest of the country are flocking to their state because they want access to legal marijuana. That’s allegedly the reason homelessness is increasing.

Most experts cannot deny this weed-motivated migration.

More and more states are considering the legalization of cannabis. Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia have initiatives that might give their citizens the right to take a toke of this newly-legalized drug.

Does this mean an increase in homelessness is just around the corner for these states? And would legally keeping joints out of people’s hands reduce homelessness?

It seems to me that, if every state legalized cannabis, then the incentive to migrate to another state would end.

Then, maybe we can return to more sober approaches to ending homelessness. Like providing more permanent supportive housing.