PUEBLO, Colo. - For the first time, CSU-Pueblo researchers presented their findings to Pueblo County Commissioners after studying the effects of marijuana legalization.
For the past 18 months, professors researched how cannabis has impacted crime, homelessness and much more in Pueblo.
CSU-Pueblo was given $50,000 dollars for the study by the county. Rick Kreinski the director of the Institute of Cannabis Research says the study is not conclusive but is the first step in a long journey, "If your a resident of Pueblo or Pueblo county you really would be curious. What has the impact been?"
Several speakers discussed what they found in their 200-page study. All three county commissioners listened intently to what was discovered.
Crime in Pueblo was the first topic on the agenda. Jennifer Schlosser-Couch an assistant researcher says violent crime has slightly increased over the last few years, but heroin seizures and car thefts have seen a dramatic increase. "Motor vehicle theft and heroin are the two biggest issues facing both the city and county at this time," Schlosser-Couch says. In the study, it says over the last seven years the number of car thefts has increased 218 percent.
Twenty police officers interviewed for the study say they've struggled with staffing since legalization. Another issue is since marijuana laws constantly changing, people often don't know what's legal, "People are breaking the law and not realizing it and then officers are having to respond to issues where the law should have been more clear," says Schlosser-Couch.
Homelessness was also a major point that was discussed. Sociology professor Tim McGettigan researched the impact on the homeless. He says that reports of the homeless population increasing due to cannabis is not true. Some Colorado counties have seen a decrease in the homeless population since legalization while others have seen an increase. McGettigan says it's almost impossible to tell if there is a correlation. However, Dr. Michael Wakefield the professor of management says the study did postulate that about 800 people who claimed to be homeless say they moved to Pueblo because of marijuana, "It's not people that were kicked out of their home that were from Pueblo but it's people that came to our community and they were homeless already." Wakefield adds that the homeless are costing Pueblo about $23 million annually.
Pueblo county commissioner Sal Pace says even though it is costing them millions, cannabis is still bringing in revenue. Pace says, "Cannabis is still an economic positive for the community of Pueblo by a large margin."
According to the study, Pueblo received $35 million dollars of marijuana revenue in 2016. In the next five years, that number is expected to reach nearly $100 million. Wakefield says it won't last forever though. With more states legalizing, marijuana revenue and tourism revenue is expected to decrease.