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Legal marijuana drawing homeless to Colorado


December 24, 2014 / 8:11 AM / CBS/AP

DENVER — Chris Easterling was sick of relying on drug dealers in Minneapolis when he needed marijuana to help ease the pain of multiple sclerosis. They were flaky, often leaving the homeless man without the drug when he needed relief the most.

So he moved to Denver, where legal pot dispensaries are plentiful and accessible.

Easterling is among a growing number of homeless people who have recently come to Colorado seeking its legal marijuana, and who now remain in the state and occupy beds in shelters, according to service providers.

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While no state agency records how many homeless people were drawn by legal weed, officials at homeless centers say the influx they are seeing is straining their ability to meet the needs of the increasing population.

“The older ones are coming for medical (marijuana), the younger ones are coming just because it’s legal,” said Brett Van Sickle, director of Denver’s Salvation Army Crossroads Shelter, which has more than doubled its staff to accommodate the increase.

The shelter did an informal survey of the roughly 500 new out-of-towners who stayed there between July and September and found as many as 30 percent had relocated for pot, he said.

Shelters in some other parts of the state said they haven’t noticed the problem or haven’t surveyed their residents about it.

Colorado’s homeless population and its marijuana dispensaries are both concentrated in Denver, which could be why centers say they are experiencing a more noticeable rise.

Other factors could be driving the rising homeless rates. Colorado’s economy is thriving, but the number of affordable homes and apartments is shrinking.

Julie Smith of Denver’s Road Home, a city plan that aims to end homelessness, said the city’s rising overall population could be a reason for an increase in the number homeless people.

She said the agency has heard anecdotal reports about homeless people moving to the state for the marijuana, but officials don’t have any numbers to support that assertion.

The city is eager to see the results of a study by Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Criminal Justice and Criminology Department of issues related to legal marijuana, including any correlation between legal marijuana and rates of homelessness.

Assistant professor Rebecca Trammell said the researchers did interviews with shelter employees and volunteers after hearing anecdotes about the problem but have no preliminary findings.

Many of those staying in shelters come to Denver with big plans and find they can’t make ends meet, said Tom Luehrs, executive director of capital city’s Saint Francis Center.

The shelter has seen an increase from 730 people a day in 2013 to 780 people this year, and as many as 300 new faces a month. Not all of them are pot-smokers, Luehrs said, but many have said they were drawn to the state because of legal marijuana.

Shelters in Washington state haven’t experienced a noticeable influx since that state’s legal recreational sales started in July. Capt. Dana Libby, Seattle Social Services director for the Salvation Army, said the economy is largely to blame for the high rates of homelessness there.

In Colorado, some out-of-town homeless are seeking jobs in the marijuana industry.

“There’s an enormous migration, even a homeless movement, so to speak,” David Spencer, a homeless man from Tennessee, told CBS Denver. “I figured this would be a good place to start over.”

But the homeless learn only after arriving that they lack the two-year residency requirement needed to work in a dispensary. Others have felony records that make them ineligible, Van Sickle said.

Van Sickle’s shelter prohibits weed and other drugs, which means those who stay there have to leave the property to smoke. Van Sickle said he has been confiscating more pot and paraphernalia, though he doesn’t keep track of how much.

Arnold Kelley got lucky. The 60-year-old retired plumber, tired of risking arrest for pot-smoking, moved from Memphis, Tennessee, and got a job fixing pipes at a Denver dispensary.

The dispensary helped him get a license to use medical marijuana and paid him in pot for his work. He said pot improved his appetite and lessened his anxiety. “Once I got here, the industry was good to me,” he said.

But it didn’t pay the bills, and Kelley finds himself staying often at Crossroads.

The Denver area is seeing younger homeless people, too.

Urban Peak, which provides services for those ages 15 to 25, says it saw 829 people between May and July at its drop-in center, up from 328 during the same time period a year earlier.

About a third of this year’s newcomers cited legal weed as a factor in moving to Colorado, said Kim Easton, the director.

Many of the older men, like Easterling, live exclusively on disability benefits and use them to buy pot, since there’s nothing to stop someone from using welfare benefits to obtain cash to use at pot shops.

“I’m staying here,” he said, between puffs on an electronic smoking device filled with pot oil. “This is my home.”

First published on December 24, 2014 / 8:11 AM

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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General Crime

Murder: The wilful and premeditated killing of another human Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>MurderUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Rape: Forceful sexual activity without consent Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>RapeUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Child Abuse: Violent treatment or sexual molestation of a child Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Child AbuseUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Incitement: Acts or production of media that promote unlawful behaviour or violence Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>IncitementUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Defamation: False statements that can harm the reputation of an individual or business Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>DefamationUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

War Crime: Intentional killing or torturing of unarmed civilians during wartime Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>War CrimeUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

The business of engaging in sexual relations in exchange for payment”>Prostitution

Street Prostitution: Sex workers that promote their services in public places Unrestricted No licence required Licence Required Official permission to operate required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Street ProstitutionUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Brothels: Sex workers in organized establishments Unrestricted No licence required Licence Required Official permission to operate required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>BrothelsUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Escorts: Independent and private sex workers Unrestricted No licence required Licence Required Official permission to operate required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>EscortsUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Laws regulating the possesion and sale of firearms”>Gun Control

Handgun Firearms designed for one hand Unrestricted No licence required Background Check Must have clear criminal or medical records to purchase firearm Training Licence Must complete a safety training course and have clear records to purchase firearm Recreational Licence Firearm licence granted only for recreational purposes like hunting or target shooting Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>HandgunUnrestrictedBackground CheckTraining LicenceRecreational LicenceFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Shotgun: Close range firearms with multiple projectiles Unrestricted No licence required Background Check Must have clear criminal or medical records to purchase firearm Training Licence Must complete a safety training course and have clear records to purchase firearm Recreational Licence Firearm licence granted only for recreational purposes like hunting or target shooting Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>ShotgunUnrestrictedBackground CheckTraining LicenceRecreational LicenceFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Rifle: High caliber firearms for long range Unrestricted No licence required Background Check Must have clear criminal or medical records to purchase firearm Training Licence Must complete a safety training course and have clear records to purchase firearm Recreational Licence Firearm licence granted only for recreational purposes like hunting or target shooting Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>RifleUnrestrictedBackground CheckTraining LicenceRecreational LicenceFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Activities or games of chance that offer money or other valuables in return”>Gambling

Local Casino Establishments which house and accommodate gambling activities Unrestricted No licence required Licence Required Official permission to operate required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Local CasinoUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Online Casino: Gambling institutions that operate from the internet Unrestricted No licence required Licence Required Official permission to operate required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Online CasinoUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Sports Betting: Gambling activity based on predicting sports results Unrestricted No licence required Licence Required Official permission to operate required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Sports BettingUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Orientation

Homosexual: Persons sexually attracted to people of their own sex Unrestricted No restrictions on any legal rights including government recognized marriages Civil Unions A legally recognized union with similar rights to marriage No Unions No unions allowed Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death Adoption Allowed to adopt children No Adoption Not allowed to adopt children

“>HomosexualUnrestrictedCivil UnionsNo UnionsFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath PenaltyAdoptionNo Adoption

Transgender: Persons that identify or desire to transition to a gender different from their assigned sex Unrestricted No restrictions on any legal rights including government recognized marriages Civil Unions A legally recognized union with similar rights to marriage No Unions No unions allowed Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death Reassignment Surgery Medical treatments for genital reconstruction and hormone replacement allowed Hormone Treatment Medical treatment for hormone replacement allowed only No Transition No medical treatments for transgender transitioning allowed

“>TransgenderUnrestrictedCivil UnionsNo UnionsFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath PenaltyReassignment SurgeryHormone TreatmentNo Transition

Doctor induced pregnancy termination”>Abortion

Allowed For: Requirements for the availability of abortion Unrestricted Available on request Mother’s Health Allowed when the pregnancy can severely injure or kill the mother Rape Allowed when the pregnancy is the result of an unlawful or forceful sexual activity Birth Defects Allowed when the child is detected to be suffering from a severe condition Socioeconomic Allowed when the socioeconomic status of the parent is inadequate

“>Allowed For UnrestrictedMother’s Health’RapeBirth DefectsSocioeconomic

Forced Abortion: Restrictions on pregnancy and mandatory abortion Children Limit Forced abortion when exceeding a children limit Birth Defects Forced abortion when the child is detected to be suffering from a severe condition Ethnicity Forced abortion for certain ethnic or racial groups

“>Forced Abortion Children LimitBirth DefectsEthnicity

Regulations for the business of narcotic substances used for recreational purposes”>Narcotics

Nicotine: Narcotic substance found in tobacco leaves Unrestricted Action not restricted Age Restriction Allowed to use if over a certain age Licence Required Official permission to sell required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Nicotine UnrestrictedAge RestrictionFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath PenaltyUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Alcohol: Beverages that contain alcoholic substances like ethanol Unrestricted Action not restricted Age Restriction Allowed to use if over a certain age Licence Required Official permission to sell required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Alcohol UnrestrictedAge RestrictionFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath PenaltyUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Cannabis: Plants that contain the psychoactive substance of THC Unrestricted Action not restricted Age Restriction Allowed to use if over a certain age Licence Required Official permission to sell required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Cannabis UnrestrictedAge RestrictionFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath PenaltyUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Psychedelics: Narcotic substances that can alter cognition and perception Unrestricted Action not restricted Age Restriction Allowed to use if over a certain age Licence Required Official permission to sell required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Psychedelics UnrestrictedAge RestrictionFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath PenaltyUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Stimulants: Stimulant narcotic substances like amphetamines and cocaine Unrestricted Action not restricted Age Restriction Allowed to use if over a certain age Licence Required Official permission to sell required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Stimulants UnrestrictedAge RestrictionFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath PenaltyUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Opiates: Narcotics derived from the opium poppy plant Unrestricted Action not restricted Age Restriction Allowed to use if over a certain age Licence Required Official permission to sell required Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Opiates UnrestrictedAge RestrictionFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath PenaltyUnrestrictedLicence RequiredFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Other

Euthanasia: The physician-assisted suicide in order to relieve pain and suffering Unrestricted Available on request Chronic Pain Allowed only if patient is suffering from chronic pain or terminal diseases Terminal Disease Allowed only when patient is suffering from terminal diseases Passive Euthanasia Allowed only when patient is kept alive by medical treatment or machinery Illegal Euthanasia completely restricted

“>EuthanasiaUnrestrictedChronic PainTerminal DiseasePassive EuthanasiaIllegal

Corporate Fraud: Actions against established market laws committed by a corporation or business Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Corporate FraudUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Public Embezzlement: The misallocation of funds or resources by a public official Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Public EmbezzlementUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Obscenity: Acts or production of media that depict or promote excessive lewdness Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>ObscenityUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Blasphemy: Acts or production of media that strongly offend a religion Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>BlasphemyUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Miscegenation: Marriage or sexual relations between people of different ethnic or racial groups Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>MiscegenationUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Ethnic Hate Speech: Acts or production of media that strongly offend or disparage an ethnic or racial group Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>Ethnic Hate SpeechUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Treason: Actions that can aid a foreign institution to harm, overthrow or make war against the sovereign Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>TreasonUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

Dissent: Acts or production of media that promote opposition to government policies or beliefs Unrestricted Action not punished Fines Action punishable with a mandatory payment Jail Time Action punishable with imprisonment Life Sentence Action punishable with life imprisonment Death Penalty Action punishable by death

“>DissentUnrestrictedFinesJail TimeLife SentenceDeath Penalty

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