Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Social Sciences

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Miao Li

Committee Member

Dr. Bryan Miller

Committee Member

Dr. Catherine Mobley


In analyzing rising homelessness across the country, a comparison of state policies uncovered a trend: many states which were early adopters of adult-use recreational cannabis law also exhibited a high incidence of homelessness. As legalizing cannabis undoubtedly affects the number of substance users who are imprisoned, such changes to drug enforcement policy may also be impacting homeless populations. Now, there is substantial research on the relationship between incarceration and homelessness, and on co-occurring mental health and substance use problems known to be prevalent among these populations. Despite such similarities, and the impacts of recreational cannabis legalization on jail populations, there is scant empirical research on its potential impact on homelessness. To test for such an aggregate effect, recreational cannabis legalization (RCL) is coded as a treatment variable for 44 states, and data is collected from 307 Continuum-of-Care (CoC) programs providing services to those experiencing homelessness. Because states receive RCL treatment (i.e., legalizing adult-use cannabis) at different times, the effect is compared across groups who were treated in the same year using an advanced causal method: difference-in-differences with multiple time periods (DID-MTP). For the time range 2007 to 2020, the differences between the average pre- and post-treatment effects on treated versus untreated groups are compared. In testing, the DID-MTP model estimates with statistical significance that treated CoCs in year 2016 have higher rates of homelessness than CoCs which never received the treatment, while other early-adopting CoCs exhibit similar trends that are not significant. Further, there is statistical support that length of exposure to treatment increases the estimated effects. Within the context of changing cannabis law, and the interrelated socioeconomic, political, and cultural factors, an analysis of these findings will follow.



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