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Could recreational marijuana create an increase in homelessness?

WRSP - NM Weed and Homeless
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Law enforcement is anxiously awaiting the 110 days until recreational marijuana becomes legal in Illinois.

"We used Colorado and California as our barometers,” Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell said. “We'll see an influx of people into the Midwest, specifically into Illinois, to come to use recreational cannabis because they can't use it in some of our surrounding states."

Sheriff Campbell said he expects to see an increase in homelessness with the rollout of recreational marijuana.

"They'll come here, some of them will lose the motivation to work, they'll lose motivation to be productive members of society and will end up staying here and they'll become homeless,” Sheriff Campbell said.

Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, homeless numbers have increased all but one year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Washington State also saw an increase each year.

The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice found more than a third of homeless jail inmates come to the state, at least partially, for legal marijuana.

The Springfield mayor has concerns with this when paired with the expansion of gaming.

"You have the gambling addiction, then you have the drug addiction, then you have homelessness,” Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said. “I mean, that can correlate together. It's almost like an equation."

Behavioral psychologists said it’s hard to prove whether marijuana use will actually increase these problems.

"I think that there's a lot of factors that contribute to homelessness," said Dr. Sara Bahn, a licensed clinical psychologist with Behavioral Health of Illinois. “Lack of groundedness, some of the basic needs. Anything that makes people feel psychologically, emotionally or medically up in the air."

Dr. Bahn said any substance can be used for self-destructive coping and it's important for loved ones and the community to be to look out for these signs.

This is something the mayor agrees with.

"[We’ll] try to take those positive steps forward to really be on the forefront to do it in a responsible manner. So that train's coming. You know, you can't ignore it - you'll get run over by it,” Langfelder said.

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