Marijuana and Homelessness in Pueblo: Show me the Data
March 10, 2017
An editorial printed Thursday, March 9th by the Pueblo Chieftain states,
No, marijuana is not the only cause of homelessness, but there’s an inescapable statistical connection between the lure of legal pot and other reasons people are drawn to Pueblo.
The Chieftain’s Editorial Board states this as if a statistically significant relationship has been established between marijuana legalization and homelessness; but, no meaningful data are presented to substantiate such a claim. What they do present is a series of numbers tied to a 2010 start date in a feeble attempt to establish a correlation.
Pueblo County’s jailing of the homeless has nearly tripled since 2010, many of them for committing violent crimes. The increase – to 565 arrests, including 63 involving violence, in 2016, from 204, including 30 for violence, in 2010 – has grown apace since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012.
Huh? Using 2010 as a start date makes no sense. Marijuana legalization didn’t go into effect until 2014. They even acknowledge the legislation itself wasn’t passed until November 2012. So, this does nothing to establish a meaningful correlation and even if it did the axiom, “correlation does not imply causation” is an important concept to understand before throwing around the phrase “inescapable statistical connection” as if the Editorial Board was an authority on such matters.
This reminds me of the dishonest assertions made by “Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo” who claimed crime in Pueblo had increased due to marijuana legalization. I examined crime data reported by the Pueblo Police Department and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office and found no evidence whatsoever to support such a claim. Quite the contrary as the vast majority of crime categories have seen a decrease since marijuana legalization went into effect in 2014.
The Pueblo Chieftain has been making the same ridiculous claims for years without ever providing data or anything other than seemingly biased anecdotes from leaders of local non-profit groups who serve the homeless. Time and again politically conservative community leaders and groups, including the Chieftain, have tried to blame marijuana legalization for a perceived rise in homelessness, violent crime and general lawlessness. But at no time have they provided credible evidence or legitimate data to substantiate these claims.
It seems entirely plausible to me that the rise in homelessness and the rise in violent behavior among the homeless is driven by the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites studies indicating sales of prescription opioids and overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) have both quadrupled in the past 15 years. Unlike the Chieftain, the CDC actually analyzes data to arrive at these conclusions.
Here’s a suggestion for the Chieftain’s Editorial Board: either provide data to substantiate your claims or stop using big words, like “statistical”, that you clearly don’t understand.