Legal Pot in Denver Swells Homeless Shelters


The one thing that liberals never seem to understand is that an ideologically sound policy still has negative consequences. There are libertarians who need to understand that as well.

In real life, the behavior of people transforms what seems like a reasonable plan into a mess. People don’t act along ideological lines. For the most part they pursue their own self-interest. And self-interest doesn’t necessarily lead to heroic acts of free enterprise.

Sometimes it means that if you legalize pot, a lot of potheads will show up and the tax revenues from that legal pot will be eaten up by the potheads.

Officials at some Denver homeless shelters say the legalization of marijuana has contributed to an increase in the number of younger people living on the city’s streets.

One organization dealing with the increase is Urban Peak, which provides food, shelter and other services to homeless people aged 15 to 24 in Denver and Colorado Springs.

‘Of the new kids we’re seeing, the majority are saying they’re here because of the weed,’ deputy director Kendall Rames told The Denver Post. ‘They’re traveling through. It is very unfortunate.’

The shelter housed an average of 225 each night last summer, but this summer it’s averaging 300 people per night.

This problem isn’t going to be confined to private homeless shelters. And the moment these people slip into the system, whether through an arrest or social services, the meter will start running.

What’s strange is that pot legalization went against a century of urban experience. You don’t want to specifically set out to attract alcoholics, potheads or anyone who is going to be a drain on the system. Setting aside all the other issues, they end up costing you money.

There are direct costs and there are indirect costs. Running down the quality of life is an indirect cost, but it can cost a city billions in property values alone. The idea that drug sales revenue is going to end up paying for that in the long term is unrealistic.

Colorado was supposed to pull in $180 million from drug sales. Estimates have now fallen to around $40 million. That sounds like a lot until you realize that a single cop costs in the neighborhood of $100,000 a year. (Never mind what his pension is going to cost.)

Here’s what dealing with a few homeless people costs in just police patrols.

The Denver City Council unanimously approved a $1.8 million budget increase for the Denver Police and Sheriff’s Departments.

The money will be used to hire additional police officers to patrol LoDo, the Ballpark Neighborhood and the 16th Street Mall.  It will also be used to cover increased arrest and detention costs.

The year before that, the Occupiers helped add $6 million in costs. And none of this counts courtroom time, public defenders or all the rest.

That $40 million won’t even cover the costs of the social problem it’s supposed to be monetizing.



    Daniel is right to blame Libertarians for this mess, for Libertarianism provides a certain amount of political freedom (as in the freedom to use drugs and alcohol without being jailed), but because it disdains value judgments it provides no guide at all to how to use that freedom – thus under Libertarianism, freedom becomes mere license. (I would not call this self-interest, however, since these newly-homeless people are clearly not acting in their own self-interest.) A Conservative (i.e. traditional values) society can afford to legalize pot because most people will choose not to smoke it; a Left society, which is what Colorado is fast becoming, is like a Libertarian one in that it values license over liberty, and when it legalizes pot the result is a society of potheads, ready to become serfs.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      They’re doing what they want to do, which is what people tend to do.

  • Bill Griggs

    What a load of silly doom and gloom tripe. Denver has a massive housing shortage right now. It is very hard to find a place to rent. A lot of these young people probably are coming because marijuana was legalized. I’ve seen other articles where they went more in depth about this and were talking about people coming for jobs in the industry and so on. It’s hard to find housing though, especially at reasonable prices, so they’ve seen an increase in the number of people in homeless shelters. This is only a tiny percentage of the people moving there though. The economy is actually booming there. They are bringing in tax revenues, both directly from legal marijuana sales and on incomes of people working in the legal industry, property being purchased as a result of it, sales taxes on other items purchased by these people making all this money and tourists coming in to experience making marijuana purchases in a legal environment. The average age of these tourists is actually I think up there around 50 or so. They’re seeing huge growth in tourism, and college enrollment is way up in Colorado for some reason or another.

    Give it more time. Competition will kick in, prices in the legal market will drop, black market sources for marijuana will lose more and more of their business. The sky will not fall in. It’s not falling in now, but nice try at making it seem like that’s the case. In Colorado and everywhere else in this country where it will happen people are going to be glad we legalized marijuana. Our laws against it have stopped nothing. They’ve just wasted piles of money and caused all the same problems caused by our failed experiment with alcohol prohibition and more. We will end up looking at this particular prohibition just like alcohol prohibition, as a perhaps well intentioned but nevertheless disastrous policy that did far more harm than good.


      Daniel’s argument was more subtle than you’re giving him credit for (so was mine above). The point is not to defend the war on drugs, which I think certainly does more harm than good, it is to decry the Left/Libertarian position on drug legalization without a corresponding moral argument to the effect that drug use is harmful, a fact you completely ignore.

      A free people must be a moral people, lest they end up useless wastrels who care for nothing except sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll (a good description of the typical Libertarian, by the way).

    • Waldemar Daninsky

      “Tourists coming in to experience making marijuana purchases in a legal environment.”

      Groovy. Probably the same sort of tourists who like to visit Costa Rica because the girls are legal at 13.

      • Bill Griggs

        The fact is that a lot of people in this country smoke pot, and the majority of adults who have come of age since it became popular in this country have done it. According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over half of all American adults under the age of 65 have done it, and we hit that point several years ago. Most don’t anymore but quite a few older people still do and older people with money make up the majority of these “pot tourists” going to Colorado now. They’re the ones who can afford to go and they’re going there just to experience legalization. Marijuana has been illegal for their entire lives and it’s a pretty big deal for them to see what most of them have been in favor of for decades finally happen somewhere.

        Do they need to go there to get pot? Heck no, marijuana is easy as can be to find everywhere in this country. It’s been like that for decades. Ever since it became popular and the market for it became well established and entrenched, our laws haven’t done a thing to the supply or demand for marijuana. And right now actually, the black market stuff is still more expensive than the legal stuff. The new industry is still in its infancy and competition and the economy of scale haven’t worked their magic yet. Nobody is going to Colorado so they can finally get pot or because it’s cheaper there, but an awful lot of people are going for the novelty of legal marijuana and they are spending big money while they’re there.

        Make jokes all you want, buddy. Legalization is coming to your state in the not too distant future. A growing majority of your fellow countrymen are for it. We realize this prohibition is an expensive disaster that does far more harm than good. We are going to change these laws whether you like it or not.

        • Tim N

          It would certainly save lots of money if we’d kept it illegal and put them all in jail.

          • Bill Griggs

            It would cost us a whole lot more, Tim, and it wouldn’t work, and it ain’t gonna happen, ever. Over half of American adults under 65 have smoked pot. Do you really think they’re ever going to be convinced that we need to lock everybody who smokes pot up? Over 50% of Americans are for legalizing and a much higher percentage than that say we shouldn’t put people in jail for pot. We’re not going to be okay with locking a bunch of people up for doing something rather benign that most of us have done. The will of the people is never going to be there on that, Tm.

          • Tim N

            Crimineys, I was being facetious. I thought it was obvious. We’re pretty much on the same page. I’m solidly in the camp for legalizing and regulating along the lines of alcohol.
            By the way I work as an RN and I’ve had hundreds of alcohol detox patients, I’ve seen people die from alcohol abuse and I’ve seen plenty on how ugly alcohol can get.
            I’ve never had a marijuana detox yet. My son is a paramedic and he was remarking that few people realize the how horrific the social costs of alcohol are.
            I won’t say marijuana is harmless but it’s hardly the scourge portrayed.
            A friend has been working on medical marijuana. He’s got an extraction process to harvest the cannabadiols (the anti-nausea part) and package it in consistent dosages. He’s been working with growers to develop strains that are higher in CBD(the anti nausea) content and lower in THC (the psychoactive component). This been a huge benefit to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy who are able to eat and sustain themselves with a minimum of ‘stoniness’.

          • Bill Griggs

            Sorry, Tim. Didn’t realize you were kidding. People make posts like that all the time and they’re perfectly serious and actually believe what they’re saying. Jails and prisons are free and an unlimited resource and the best solution for any and every problem.

  • Erudite Mavin

    Marijuana playing larger role in fatal crashes

    Matt Schmitz and Chris Woodyard, and USA TODAY June 9, 2014


    As more states are poised to legalize medicinal marijuana, it’s looking like dope is playing a larger role as a cause of fatal traffic accidents.

    Columbia University researchers performing a toxicology examination of nearly 24,000 driving fatalities concluded that marijuana contributed to 12% of traffic deaths in 2010, tripled from a decade earlier.

    NHTSA studies have found drugged driving to be particularly prevalent among younger motorists. One in eight high school seniors responding to a 2010 survey admitted to driving after smoking marijuana. Nearly a quarter of drivers killed in drug-related car crashes were younger than 25. Likewise, nearly half of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for marijuana were younger than 25.

    A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that 4% of drivers were high during the day and more than 6% at night, and that nighttime figure more than doubled on weekends.

    Colorado has seen a spike in driving fatalities in which marijuana alone was involved, according to The trend started in 2009 — the year medical marijuana dispensaries were effectively legalized at the state level.

    NHTSA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse are now in the final months of a three-year, half-million-dollar cooperative study to determine the impact of inhaled marijuana on driving performance. Tests observe participants who ingest a low dose of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, a high dose and a placebo to assess the effects on performance, decision-making, motor control, risk-taking behavior and divided-attention tasks.

    The study is being performed using what NHTSA calls “the world’s most advanced driving simulator,” the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator, which was previously used to study the effects of alcohol on driving.

  • Erudite Mavin

    The Left wing and Libertarians who support legalizing pot and drugs in general
    again show their adolescent mindset.
    It is always about them and their self-centeredness and who ever becomes their victim, having to pick up their pieces with extra taxes or become injured or killed as a result of the pot head driving just keeps adding up and the pot heads believe it is their right to inflect this on society

    • Nadzieja Batki

      I am so glad you pointed out the obvious. Thank you.

      • Erudite Mavin

        Thanks. Too bad more don’t have a clue about this and the disasters it brings.

  • Andy_Lewis

    None of the gubmint’s business. Period!


      Perhaps it isn’t the government’s business to criminalize pot, but if society is so far gone in the direction of libertinism (as it will be under Leftism or Libertarianism) that we’ve got a nation of potheads instead of responsible citizens prepared to perform their proper duty (as electors, for example), it cannot survive. That is what Libertarianism fails to consider (Leftism is o.k. with it because once society collapses it can then be enslaved).

  • Right Wing Surrealist

    It’s not the weed…it’s the illegal aliens and the Californians,

    • JR Kipling

      I have know dozens of people who lives were destroyed by dope.
      Stupid, lazy, emotionally inert, schizophrenic. The thing to pay attention to is that pot heads see nothing. They are so ego centered, so mentally fogged that it appears harmless. What a pothead thinks, feels, sees
      or realizes is worthless. At all times its the drug talking. If the say its harmless its because the drug is telling them to lie in order to keep the drug habit going.

      • Right Wing Surrealist

        Dope is heroin not weed

      • Tim N

        Wildly overstated hyperbole. Most marijuana users are people who either have an occasional toke or partook during college or their youth. Certainly you’ll find some who spend all their time loaded but you find that with alcohol too, only worse.

  • JR Kipling

    This is all just fascist bullshit….pot is…uhmmm…its not bad…its like…uh… doesn’t hurt you,..I smoke weed its just a a flower, like opium is a harmless flower..did ya know that.? Dude just think how incredible that is.. and uh these..fascist try to control us, and tell us what to do, ..pot lets you be like, free and everything and that’s why I do nothing but try to get high…its you have any weed..? I gotta get some weed tonight or I cant cope, it helps me cope, its harmless.. the fascists are lying… ..hey anyone got some weed? huh?

  • Adam

    The same could have been said during prohibition when a few areas still had alcohol for sale. It draws all the most unsavory characters as the supply is local while the demand is national. The case for prohibition was actually stronger from a physiological standpoint as alcohol produces physical dependance that can be lethal during withdraw and it readily produces addiction due to activation of the reward pathway like heroin. Pot does not activate the reward pathway appreciably, so therefore has no physical dependance. There is a psychological one (mood altering “escape” from reality), but otherwise stopping use has no real effects of dependance that drive habitual use like other drugs.

    Practically it makes sense to legalize as the relative harm is the least out of all the big drugs (tobacco, alcohol, amphetamines, opiates, etc.) Additionally we’re nut funneling billions to drug lords in Latin America and the ME and saddling people with needless criminal records. But, like alcohol, there will be collateral damage. Just think of all the millions in lost wages from alcohol addiction along with traffic deaths from drunk driving, marital abuse by drunk spouses, etc. At least with pot it will be less in the long rung. In the end like everything else, there’s always a trade-off, and the conservative side seems to ignore that for the already legal drugs that claim quite a toll and ideologically harp on the pot case.

    • Bill Griggs

      Adam, if you look at the history of Alcohol Prohibition what you’ll see is there was a big drop off in consumption at first, but then organized crime exploded into the scene and millions of Americans got involved in the illegal industry to varying degrees and booze started flowing freely everywhere. By the end of Prohibition which only lasted a few years, almost as many were drinking as before and we had the same financial and societal and personal costs from alcohol abuse as before, plus the enormous costs of the failed prohibition.

      Sure, alcohol costs us an awful lot. It is far worse than marijuana when it comes to harms to others and to those who abuse it. I’m an attorney in court all the time and it is crystal clear to me that alcohol causes more crime than any other drug, violent crime and other stupid conduct. It’s not just because so many use it. It’s because it is a “hard drug,” one that wouldn’t be legal if it was a new drug that wasn’t too popular to ban with any success. It can cause far more impairment than marijuana. It lowers inhibitions to a great degree and leads to risk taking behavior and just brings out absolute worst in many who consume it. I’m going to court tomorrow on case where my client will plead to a prison sentence for another violent crime he committed while drunk, after 19 months of sobriety and no trouble. If I had a nickel for every time a victim or witness or family member of one of my clients told me about what a great guy my client is until he starts drinking and turns mean and violent I’d have a whole lot of nickels. I have never once heard that about pot, nor do I have clients stealing to get their pot fix like the ones hooked on meth, cocaine, Ozycontin and so on.

      If we were to ban alcohol today we wouldn’t prevent all those horrible costs from alcohol that we have now. We’d see a repeat of the results from our last experiment with alcohol prohibition where within a short while we’d have a massive black market for alcohol and all those costs we complain about now plus the enormous costs of another failed prohibition. That’s where we are with pot today. Most everybody who wants to smoke it is already doing so, especially the idiots we worry about. Precious few aren’t smoking it just because it is illegal, and those people are the least of our worries because they’ve already sown that they are law abiding and have some self control. Most all the bad things we worry about happening because people are smoking pot is already happening. We aren’t adding a new intoxicant to the mix. It’s already been added, decades ago. People ignore these laws like they ignored the laws during alcohol prohibition. Pot is everywhere, super easy to obtain, and actually cheaper than beer on a per use basis usually. We’re not making it available. It’s already available and whoever wants it is already buying it. We’re just changing the source from which people obtain it, cutting organized crime out of the loop hopefully.

  • tagalog

    Furthermore, a lot of these homeless types who are in Colorado for the pot have criminal convictions on their records that will stand in the way of their getting jobs, so they’ll remain homeless in Colorado, further eating into all those wonderful tax revenues that Colorado was going to get from legalizing then taxing marijuana.

    Do they think that all the people who smoke pot are the suburban types?

    Not to mention all the homeless crimes that are going to increase, like shoplifting, camping in the parks, defecating/urinating in public, drinking in public, and the like. Ah, the quality of life that will be enhanced by the legalization of marijuana.

  • Bill Griggs

    I would never argue that marijuana is harmless or that it’s particularly moral to smoke pot. That is not the argument Libertarians or Liberals are making either. For the most part people are saying that marijuana isn’t harmless, isn’t without risks, isn’t something we want our kids doing or adults doing. It is a vice and children should not do it at all and adults should recognize that it is not perfectly harmless or without risks and they should leave it alone or only use it in moderation. Just because we are legalizing marijuana does not mean we are encouraging irresponsible behavior. We’re just getting rid of a stupid law that doesn’t stop anything and in fact does far more harm than good.

    In this article the author is talking about negative unintended consequences from what seem to be ideologically sound policies. I submit to you that the negative consequences from this policy of marijuana prohibition are far worse than the harms we intended to prevent, harms we aren’t even actually preventing with this failed policy. I get the moral arguments and i think that most people who support this prohibition have their hearts in the right place. They mean well. I can understand why many are terrified of legalization. I think that eventually most will be glad we did it though. They’ll look at this failed prohibition like we look at alcohol prohibition, as a perhaps well intentioned but nevertheless disastrous policy that did far more harm than good. Most of us who want to legalize marijuana aren’t doing this because we think marijuana is good, it’s because we know that we aren’t stopping anything with our laws but we’re wasting a fortune and causing an awful lot of harm. What is moral about a policy that does far more harm than good for society?


      I thank you for your lengthy and detailed response. However, I think you’ve sidestepped my basic argument. Some Conservatives (like William F. Buckley Jr. and myself, to conjoin two persons one of whom is far better known than the other), agree that drug prohibition does far more harm than good. But I do not believe you have correctly stated the Libertarian position: “It is a vice and children should not do it at all and adults should recognize that it is not perfectly harmless or without risks and they should leave it alone or only use it in moderation.

      The essence of Libertarianism is the separation of politics from morality (with the exception of the one smuggled-in concept that the initiation of force is bad). What you have stated here is actually a Conservative position! It involves value judgments based on the moral standards we Conservatives are trying to conserve. Perhaps you are a Conservative and do not realize it?

      As for the “Liberal” (i.e. Left) position on drugs, I am less sure what it is precisely. The Left tends to take positions on sex and drugs that are recognizably those of the libertine, apparently as a consequence of their disinterest in controlling these two aspects of men’s lives because they don’t believe them to be important, and to help keep the masses distracted so they won’t notice the shackles they’re wearing at all other times.

      But neither the Leftist nor the Libertarian position on drugs is truly principled, and for men to be free politically but without moral guidance is a situation that cannot last (which again is why the Left wishes to remove that moral guidance in the first place). Edmund Burke, someone I admire only with severe limitations, once said something about the passions of men forming their fetters. A bunch of goofs wandering around stoned from one sexual encounter to the next is probably what he had in mind, for such men will never be able to defend or maintain their freedom.

      And that’s the problem with pot legalization in Colorado: it was done for the wrong reasons. You think it will get better there, and maybe it will – but only if we Conservatives are successful in defending enough traditional morality there that the place doesn’t fall apart.

      Note to moderator: why is this post being moderated? There’s no flaming in here, and I’m pretty well established with Disqus and with conservative commentary. One of my posts yesterday was moderated and disappeared without good cause – I certainly hope there is no repetition as I’m not given to wasting my valuable time writing comments only to have them disappear.

  • jzsnake

    The answer to Denver’s problem is so simple that even a conservative could understand it, just make pot legal everywhere. I can’t wait till it’s legal hear in GA.

  • Theodore

    the pot heads defending their vice is funny.. they actually think they are making great points, but it’s just all jibberish, they can’t see how it’s affected their brains.. they actually think they are smarter

    • halevi

      It ain’t the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!

  • Kevin Bjornson

    Crime is down, and more jobs have been created. You want to reverse that? Put more people in prison (as if that wouldn’t cost money)? Put people out of work at a time of economic depression? Spread homelessness equally around the US, so each state has it’s quota? What’s your five-year plan, comrade?

    Of course, some people will abuse freedom. Like this low-intelligence article abuses the right to free speech. That is no reason to deny freedom.