Could Seattle’s legal pot cause surge in homeless youth?

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SEATTLE — When Hempfest, a celebration of all things related to cannabis, kicks off in Seattle in just a few weeks, the number of young people showing up at the city’s youth shelters will surge.

“If you don’t have an ID and we haven’t seen you before, we won’t let you in because we just end up with an influx of kids,” said Mary Steele, executive director of New Horizons.

Steele is also worried that, with legal pot shops now opening up in Seattle, that surge of young people at her shelter may be permanent.

“The biggest concern is we’re going to see an influx of young people who are coming here solely to engage in recreational pot,” said Steele.

And those young people could eat up the resources that others trying to get off the street desperately need.

It’s already happening in Denver. Legal pot shops in Colorado have already been open nearly eight  months and shelter operators say they’re seeing more homeless kids.

According to a survey,  about a quarter of the increase was related to marijuana, including some who moved hoping to find work in the marijuana industry. But as the industry is still in its infancy, there aren't a lot of jobs to be had.

Shelter operators in Seattle say they haven't seen an increase in homeless youth, but operators like Steele worry eight months from now, the scene may start to look a lot more like Denver.

"It’s hard to work with young people when they’re here for that reason. We have a lot more success working with young people who are ready to take steps to get off the streets."



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  • Skip

    There’s already a lot of homeless people, of all ages, from booze and tobacco habits, so pot will probably add to the problem just like Denver. I see lot of baby boomer burn outs with grey hair sleeping in the parks. The hispanic people are working their butts off at all the construction sites.

  • Jim Peterson

    really are you freakin serious more scare tactics i am so sick of the media looking for the down side of pot why not do the stories on how many people are helped o thats right that doesnt sell

  • Jim Peterson

    how can you blame the pot on more homeless youth for one thing its illegal for them to buy from the shops and dont say its easier for them to get it now. it was just as easy before pot was legal duh. this is just more bullshit from the people against pot . But hey if your that stupid then believe it

  • cannabisdoc

    There is no relation to recreational cannabis, & homeless youth in Washington. Cannabis is illegal in Washington state to anyone under 21 years of age. If your under 21 years of age you can not work in the recreational cannabis industry period. Any festival, like Folk Life, or Bumpershoot, were there is music there will be an influx of youth, its not because of cannabis. Recreational cannabis will create jobs for adults, and millions in tax dollars for Washington state. Its an assumption for Fox News to claim there is some kind of correlation between cannabis, & homeless youth. Of course they can not present any real statistics on homeless youth, and cannabis because its just a wind up story, to cause hysteria.

  • Ray

    The logic in the article is horrible. Not only because of the things mentioned in the comments but the fact that Downtown Seattle has an ish load of homeless people. I visited, from NYC, for the first time earlier this year and was taken aback by the number of homeless druggies downtown. Not a fan of pot smokers but pot would be an improvement to whatever these people were on.

    • Jordan

      Thats what im saying. I visit my Aunt im Seattle all the time and there is a ton of homeless, and they definitely aren’t homeless because of pot, i can tell you that much.

  • Bernie

    People are homeless because the price of housing is so high as well as the price of food, gasoline and utilities. Some homeless people do drugs (and booze is a drug) ’cause living on the streets sucks and who wants to be fully mentally engaged in that reality, better to dull the mind.

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