One of the major talking points that marijuana advocates repeat is how the legalization and subsequent taxation of marijuana will lead to a huge stream of revenue for the United States. In 2018 alone, the legal marijuana industry accounted for around $10 billion dollars in revenue, with many experts believing that not only will that number continue to rise, but that 2019 could be even better.

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In 2016, Nevada became one of the less than a dozen states nationwide that have legalized recreational marijuana and are beginning to take advantage of its new revenue source to help keep people off the streets.

Nevada Putting Cannabis Revenue To Good Use

Last year, officials on the Clark County Commission delegated nearly $10 million dollars of the revenue that was expected from marijuana licenses to go toward helping the homeless. Clark County, which is the home of Las Vegas, has nearly two million people living there with around 6,000 of them being homeless in some capacity. Officials in the county hope to use the funds to offer more assistance to the homeless population by increasing the resources that homeless people may need to get back on their feet.

Shot of the Las Vegas Strip from behind. As a contrast to the gold and shine of The Strip Hotels and Casinos, we see how homeless people live on the street. Taken during a day. iStock / jezdicek

People Are Worth The Investment

Assistant Clark County Manager Kevin Schiller said the money should be “more flexible, more creative and more responsive” to deal with the homeless problem, adding that “(The) investment of that $3,300 to maintain that individual in that place of residence, in their stable housing, well outweighs the longer term investment if they become homeless.”

Schiller has advocated for the funds to help homeless people with short-term housing costs, car rentals and other necessities like utility deposits, which most homeless people don’t have the available funds for, keeping them on the streets. The barriers that many homeless people face are monetary, so the extra revenue source that marijuana provides can be an extreme help.

Nevada collected nearly $70 million dollars during the first year of legal recreational cannabis sales in tax revenue. That number will surely grow as the cannabis industry expands not only in the state but nationwide, meaning that the number of funds for homeless efforts and other reform efforts could see some extra in their banks. Of the nearly $10 million in extra funds from marijuana license fees, HELP of Southern Nevada will see around $1.8 million of that go to them.

Homelessness Is On The Rise, Especially In Youth

Help of Southern Nevada provides free programs for homeless teens Source: Help Of Southern Nevada-Shannon West Homeless Youth Center Facebook Page
“Clark County Commissioners approved a portion of marijuana fees collected by the Business License Department to be set aside for homelessness,” Kelly Robson, Chief Social Services Officer of HELP, told The Stash. “The county recognizes there are unacceptable levels of homelessness among single adults, youth, children, families, veterans, and senior citizens.

Clark County has over six-thousand individuals experiencing homelessness with over four-thousand being unsheltered (living in places not meant for human habitation). Clark County projects a continued increase in homelessness given a lack of housing and supportive services across the most vulnerable populations.” After the money was awarded, the Clark County Commission asked the benefactors of the funds to put the money into programs that were already in effect to expedite the progress.

“We were charged with getting it out the door quickly. And that’s why we are expanding existing programs that we know to perform and deliver very timely,” Mike Pawlak, director of Clark County Social Services, told KNPR, a Nevada news station.

Of the new funds, Robson said that “HELP of Southern Nevada was awarded $930,884.00 for the Hospital to Home Program. This program will assist 60 medically fragile homeless clients secure housing with intensive case management.” and that “HELP was also awarded $855,591.00 to assist with the operational costs associated with opening an additional 76 beds at the Shannon West Homeless Youth Center. HELP’s Shannon West Homeless Youth Center provides emergency shelter, transitional housing, and permanent housing services for youth and young adults ages 16-24 that are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless.”

Of the 6,000 people that are homeless to some degree, over 1,000 of them are under the age of 25. The two groups that HELP is currently focusing on, sick people and the youth, are two groups who often face greater challenges when trying to get help. Michelle Fuller-Hallauer, a manager with the Clark County Social Services Office, said that the funds they are receiving have fewer restrictions than money given from the federal government, making them more effective to handle the challenges in battling homelessness.

“These dollars are more flexible, so they will allow us to fill the gaps on things that our other funding doesn’t allow us to pay for,” Fuller-Hallauer said. The flexibility in the funds means that the money can be used for a wider array of problems that may not be covered under federal guidelines. Federal guidelines are also usually overarching, to fit all the states as best as possible, meaning that sometimes states are left in difficult situations with the funds.

Nonetheless, the boost in funds is being seen as a great asset going forward. “It is definitely not the end-all, be-all,” Robson told KNPR, “We’re not solving the issue but we’re definitely making a dent in the issue.”