Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper says the high rate of homelessness in his state is due to the "growing economy."
Hickenlooper, whose name has been floated as a possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, made the comment during an interview Thursday with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.
The host asked Hickenlooper about comments Attorney General Jeff Sessions made suggesting that the U.S. Justice Department might crack down on states that have decriminalized marijuana. In 2012, Colorado became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana.
Hickenlooper answered that he's thought about Sessions' comments and what they might mean for Colorado's lax pot laws. But he went on to tout the state's "progress" on the issue: "We actually have anecdotal evidence and I think soon numerical evidence that there are less drug dealers on the street, and they don't care who they sell to, right? You didn't see a spike—"
O'Reilly interjected, "But you know what did happen, interestingly enough, was that a flood of homeless people and poor people came into Colorado because now they have easy access to the intoxicant."
"Downtown Denver, there are a lot of people that are just stoned morning till night because they can get this stuff," O'Reilly said.
Hickenlooper laughed off O'Reilly's assertion that the state's marijuana laws are connected to an increase in homelessness, saying it wasn't true.
The Democratic governor then blamed Colorado's homeless population on a "growing economy."
"When you're growing that fast, you have all kinds of homelessness," Hickenlooper said. "We had that long before we legalized marijuana and every state that's got a growing economy, including Texas, has real challenges."
O'Reilly laughed at Hickenlooper's response, pointing out that if the economy is growing, "there should be jobs, they shouldn't be homeless."
According to a 2016 report titled, "The State of Homelessness in America," which was released by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, "unemployment often precedes homelessness and is frequently cited in research as a risk factor for experiencing homelessness."
The same report listed Colorado as having the largest percentage decrease in the number of unemployed people in 2013-14, the most recent years for which data are available. The number of unemployed people — not the unemployment rate — in Colorado decreased by 25 percent during those years.
The unemployment rate in Colorado in January 2013 was 7.3 percent. By December 2014, Colorado's unemployment rate had fallen to just 4.2 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Colorado's economy grew at a rate of 4.1 percent in 2014 — the third-fastest growing state economy in the country, 24/7 Wall St. reported. In 2015, the state's economy grew at a rate of 3.6 percent — the fourth-fastest growing in the country.
"While there are exceptions, larger economic expansions tend to coincide with greater population growth," 24/7 Wall St. explained. "Each new resident will consume more goods and generate more economic output. Not surprisingly, Colorado’s population grew by nearly 2 percent in 2015, [the] second fastest in the country and well above the national population growth rate of 0.8 percent."