Legal Pot in Denver Swells Homeless Shelters

If you legalize pot, a lot of potheads will show up


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.