In the latest such survey, the Colorado Department of Public Safety looked at homelessness inside of the state prison system, with information from nearly 300 inmates who self-identified as homeless and almost 200 more who said they had a home outside of jail. In addition to questions about employment, mental health, and service needs, researchers asked inmates why they moved to Colorado in the first place, with nearly one-third of respondents citing legal weed as a deciding factor.
While those numbers by themselves may suggest that legal cannabis was a motivator in what some claim has been a surge in homeless residents across Colorado cities, the study concluded that such figures couldn’t be interpreted as a causal relationship.
“There was no statistically significant difference between the homeless and non‐homeless respondents in terms of the proportion that selected marijuana as the reason for coming to Colorado,” the study’s authors highlighted. “Both groups ranked marijuana as a reason to stay in Colorado though this was not in the top five reasons for either group.”
Adding even more doubt to the state-funded survey, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper argued that homelessness should not be a focus of post-legalization cannabis research or policy, considering the state’s other priorities. Because it is still illegal to consume marijuana outside of public residences, Colorado cannabis users are automatically at higher risk for arrest if they do not have stable housing. “The percentage of the total population experiencing homelessness who come from out-of-state has remained very constant – basically 14 to 15 percent.”
“Colorado is a nice place. We have spectacular views,” Burnes added.