Pubdate: Fri, 01 Aug 2014
Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
Copyright: 2014 Times-Standard


Authorities in the Mile-High City are wondering if their state's 
recent embrace of legalized marijuana is responsible for a spike in 
the city's homeless population.

That's ... possible.

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that an "unusually high number of 
people" - here we read that as a reference to quantity - are putting 
a strain on the area's social services.

"Of the new kids we're seeing, the majority are saying they're here 
because of the weed," Kendall Rames, deputy director of Urban Peak, a 
nonprofit that provides aid to young people in Denver and Colorado 
Springs, told the Post. "They're traveling through. It is very unfortunate."

The summer months typically see 50 or so more people join the crowd 
at Father Woody's Haven of Hope in Denver, the Post reports.

This year? Over 900 new arrivals in the last three months.

Might more than a few of them have been drawn to the Queen City of 
the Plains by the lure of legal bud?

That's ... probable.

At the Salvation Army's single men's Crossroads Shelter in Denver, 
which once housed 225 men a night, average summer occupancy has 
hovered between 300 and 350. While those numbers are rising, others 
are dropping.

Before legal pot, the average age of the shelter's residents was 35 to 60.

"Now we are seeing a much larger number of 18- to 25-year-olds," said 
Murray Flagg, divisional social services secretary for the Salvation 
Army's Intermountain Division.

All of them aren't there just to smoke. Some are looking to work in 
the industry. But there aren't enough jobs to go around. If they have 
a criminal record - say, from selling pot under the counter - that 
might interfere with their aspiration to help sell pot over the counter.

The long and short of it is that too many kids are showing up without 
a penny in their pocket looking to get in the pot game.

But you, North Coast readers, you knew this already.

You knew this years ago.

Some of you drive past this every day.

We're not here to pick on the homeless, or the kids, or Denver, or 
pot. Times are tough - it's no Depression, but "in these difficult 
economic times" has been a cliche since the housing and financial 
bubbles popped. We wish Denver the best, but we should benefit from 
their example.

What Denver is struggling with today, the communities here in the 
Emerald Triangle have been wrestling with for quite some time, 
embracing it or holding it at arm's length - sometimes both.

And when legalization finally arrives here - and it will; its 
momentum builds with each passing year - it will have served all of 
us well if we worked out these issues in advance.

As this paper editorialized just over a year ago, "Here in Humboldt 
County, keeping pot illegal and unregulated means environmental 
devastation, poisoning of lands, streams and wildlife. Keeping pot 
illegal means robberies, home invasions, murders. It means broken 
families, shattered lives. ... There is a price to maintaining our 
national schizophrenia on pot. Humboldt County is paying it. Illegal 
marijuana may be fueling - at bare minimum - at least one-quarter of 
our economy, but the gains are not spread evenly, and the costs are 
breaking us."

Legal marijuana will have its own costs. They're far preferable to 
the alternative, but we should have a conversation about how they will be paid.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom