Clark County, Nevada, will allocate $1.8 million from marijuana industry revenue to subsidize programs assisting the homeless. The resolution’s first beneficiary will be HELP, an organization providing aid to homeless youth.
This is only the first round of funding, as the Clark County Commission has already budgeted a total of $9.7 million from marijuana licensing fees that will go to help reduce homelessness across Nevada.
Upon the announcement of the measure, Mike Pawlak, Clark County’s Social Services Director, commented, "Our commission, they're a bold bunch of people, and they took some leadership and initiative, and they knew there was an issue that needed additional financing to bring resources to the table to fill in some gaps and to do some innovative programming."
Southern Nevada’s HELP will initially receive $930,000 to provide rehousing services for vulnerable, non-chronically homeless individuals who have just been discharged from hospital and $855,000 to cover partial program costs for a homeless youth center.
Since the legalization of recreational cannabis in Nevada in 2016, dispensaries have flourished across the state. The Las Vegas City Council recently approved an initiative to allow marijuana businesses to apply for permits to open cannabis lounges in Sin City. State approval is pending for these lounges, which would be safe havens for recreational consumers.
With millions of dollars in licensing fees steadily flowing into Clark County’s coffers, Las Vegas officials see the prospect of a weed tourism boom in a very positive light. Revenue from cannabis licenses could help solve many problems of the local communities, not just homelessness.
According to Clark County’s recent resolution, homeless programs may receive a maximum of $12 million per year. There are about 6,000 homeless people in Southern Nevada, and 1,000 among them are under 25.
When federal dollars are used to help fund homeless programs, there are certain limits to how funds can be used. “[Cannabis licensing] dollars are more flexible,” Clark County Social Services Manager Michelle Fuller-Hallauer has commented. "So they will allow us to fill the gaps on things that our other funding doesn't allow us to pay for."
HELP will use the funds to hire 10 new workers and add 100 beds to accommodate homeless youth. Naturally, this will not permanently solve Southern Nevada’s homelessness crisis, but it will certainly improve conditions for a large number of vulnerable homeless youth.
With the combination of rampant homelessness and cannabis business bonanza observed in West Coast cities like Seattle, LA, and San Francisco, the Nevada initiative sounds like a very attractive prospect for states like Washington and California.
In fact, the City of Los Angeles has already considered using cannabis tax revenue to fund some of its much needed homeless programs. Since cannabis entrepreneurs are thriving in these jurisdictions, cannabis advocates have also proposed the government should incentivize those businesses to build homeless shelters themselves.
If counties in Washington, California, Colorado, and Oregon follow on Clark County’s footsteps, cannabis businesses will likely make a tremendous impact on local communities.