homelessness and cannabis
homelessness and cannabis

Homelessness and Cannabis: Is There a Correlation?

Is there a connection to San Fran's homelessness and liberal cannabis laws?

Posted by:
Reginald Reefer on Sunday Oct 13, 2019

Homelessness and Cannabis: Is there a correlation?


I recently stumbled on the ravings of a prohibitionist ideologue who claims that cannabis has “unseen costs” associated with legalization. While today I’m not going to be destroying his views on cannabis and the irrationalities of his statements; there was one part I’d like to focus on – Homelessness.


As I frequently research the industry, trends, perspectives, sciences, research and innovation within  the cannabis niche, I run into my fair share of “counter-arguments” to legalization. Most of them, are quite easy to dispute – however, when it comes to homelessness, the problem is far more nuanced than a simple “If X then Y”.


Cannabis and the Homeless


I was first made aware of this a few years back where the “rising homeless population” hit the streets of Denver a roughly at the same time of recreational legalization. Post-legalization, there was an increase of homelessness in the city of Denver.


Critics of cannabis will look at this and say, “Cannabis causes a higher rate of homelessness”, however, they would be wrong. In Denver, roughly at the same time of cannabis legalization, there were certain laws passed that created more social benefit for homeless people to be there. Things like government assistance would be easier and the city was focused on making it more humane for those who do not have a home.


As a result, plenty of homeless people immigrated to Denver to obtain those benefits. Cannabis actually had very little to do with the surge of homelessness and in some cases, have facilitated the means to help homeless people find their footing.


It’s not too difficult to understand that if a City creates initiatives to assist the homeless, that some people would want to take benefit of those initiatives – even if they are out-of-state.


However, this entire premise still considers cannabis and homelessness within the same idea. We need to separate these two to be able to fully address the situation.


My Time Walking with the Homeless


In 2012, I went on a six-month tour of different places in the United States. I didn’t have a lot of money and used my Van (old Scooby Doo type thang) as my base of operations – in other words, I slept in my van.


I was fortunate to find a spot in Santa Monica, CA, where I had a parking spot a few streets away from the Promenade. How I got that spot? I’m a really good guitar player, and one of my songs inspired a person to give me permission to park and use their apartment for showers and cooking food. However, that’s besides the point.


During my stay in this pristine location, I had a unique perspective on the great wealth divide in the area. You see, Santa Monica has plenty of millionaires and a few billionaires living in the area. I would frequently see $250,000 cars drive up and down the streets.


Yet, walk a few blocks, beyond the Santa Monica Pier, and you reach Venice. In Venice, there are parking lots of RVs, and hordes of homeless living there. This is where I usually bought my weed because Venice has so many spots to get good weed from.


Nonetheless, spending time with the “people of the street”, I began understanding that homelessness is far more complex than simply “people are too lazy to get a job!”


Some of the major reasons why people go homeless


The first thing we need to address is “Mental Illness”. I personally believe this is one of the primary motivators for people landing on the streets. A Good portion of the homeless people I met were bat-shit-crazy.


I would frequently see people ranting and raving to themselves, yelling at nothing. I would see young people walking completely out of sync with reality, unable to make sense of the pseudo-psychotic state they were in.


With absolutely no assistance from the government, and the difficulties in trying to get assistance, these people are forced to roam the streets – judged by those who pass by.


Another reason is “A Series of Catastrophic Events”. We all believe that “we’ve got our shit under control”. Yet, I met many people who also had their “shit under control”, yet a series of catastrophic events eventually pushed them to the streets.


“I lost my business because a partner embezzled money from me, then, my wife ran off with him and I broke my shin within the span of a few weeks. Not able to walk, and with no safety net, I was forced to sell everything and eventually couldn’t keep up…now I’m here”


This is not an actual account, however, I heard plenty of similar stories. People who were on top, then a drastic thing happened, which spiraled them towards the streets.


It’s easy for people who have money to say, “I wouldn’t do that!” but you have to understand that nobody does “what’s worst for them”. People always try to make the best of a situation, and sometimes, a series of unfortunate events – can knock you down and won’t allow you to stand up. This is especially true for those who do not have a healthy social circle.


The point here, is that it’s not “Cannabis” that makes people homeless, that problem is intrinsically connected with the lack of empathy from society. “Pick yourself up” is a common slogan, however, when you’re broken – you might need a bit of help.


To solve homelessness, we need to address the fundamental principles of society. We shouldn’t look for people to blame, but rather solutions. The Cannabis industry, in some instances, dedicate a portion of the earned revenue to helping these people. This might attract more homeless people, but it’s also giving some people the opportunity to lift themselves out of a dire situation – and that is a good thing!







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