Study suggests homeless aren’t moving to Denver for legal marijuana

DENVER -- The homeless population in Denver is growing at a steady pace, but one of the state's leading experts on homelessness said the legalization of marijuana is not the main reason more people are moving to Colorado.

Don Burnes, the founder and co-chair of the Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness at the University of Denver's School of Social Work, said the proof can be found by asking Denver's homeless where they come from.

"The data we have, it's not great data, but the only data we have that addresses this suggests that really isn't the case," Burnes said.

According to an annual survey conducted by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, less than 20 percent of Denver's homeless population moved from out of state.

From 2014 to 2016, only 18 percent of homeless people surveyed said they moved to Denver from outside Colorado.

"If lots of people were coming here for marijuana, you'd have a substantial increase in the last three or four years. It just hasn't happened," Burnes said.

But many homeless people said legal weed is indeed the reason they moved here.

"Marijuana's the big thing," one homeless man said.

"I came here for the marijuana for sure," another man said.

But Burnes argues that's just a misconception with no hard numbers to back it up.

"None of the studies, none of the surveys about homelessness have specifically asked about marijuana," Burnes said.