Colorado Springs has already seen a few families moving here to find medicinal help from groups like Realm of Caring, the Stanley brothers' nonprofit that helps kids obtain CBD-heavy strains to treat chronic seizures and other ailments. But there's "quite a few" others coming our way, says Colorado Springs Police Department officer M.J. Thomson, and it's for all the reasons you would think.
"What we've really observed in the last few months is campers, people driving in from neighboring states, coming in and then they're contacting our unit and asking how to get state IDs. ... Because they know our unit helps homeless people get IDs, Social Security cards, birth certificates, things like that," says Thomson, a member of the department's Homeless Outreach Team. "And basically they said they're coming here because they want to be able to legally smoke marijuana.
"Like, I had one guy that suffers from HIV and he lives outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. And he said it was costing him $3,000 a month for his medicines that he takes to help him with his HIV. And he said he obviously couldn't afford to pay $3,000 a month for his medicine, so he moved to Colorado so he could spend [the money] on marijuana, which made him feel better anyway."
Thomson tells of another time when he found a mid-size moving van full of West Coast twentysomethings. "And we contacted them down at the park, and they all said, 'Yeah, we're free-living, bringing back the hippie lifestyle, and we want to be able to smoke pot without having the police on our case, so we're coming out here to smoke pot.' ... You know, a lot of them are just real blunt."
No pun intended.
As for the homeless side of the issue, Thomson can't cite any numbers, but does note that he's seen more people on the street who say they're here to smoke. Bob Holmes, executive director of Homeward Pikes Peak, also can't confirm a cannabisian correlation, though he says the local chronically homeless population has increased to more than 350 people, from 150 in 2010.
Tucked into Gov. John Hickenlooper's $24.1 billion state budget, unveiled last week, is a request for $7,084,656 to fund a grant program for marijuana research and one full-time employee to administer it.
"There is a lack of scientific information on health impacts of marijuana," reads the explanation. "This lack of information prevents individuals and health care providers from having the information they need to make important health decisions."
Areas of opportunity include a deeper look at how cannabis affects post-traumatic stress disorder and seizures, which universities and hospitals would likely apply for state money to study. The Legislature will take up the budget during next year's session.