A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both houses of Congress reinstated the Marijuana Data Collection Act Thursday, a law that would require the federal government to investigate the effects of legal cannabis. The measure, which was introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers back in 2018 and 2019, is sponsored by Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Democratic Rep Sylvia Garcia of Texas, and Rep Don Young, a Republican from Alaska.
“As more states legalize and regulate marijuana, we need to carefully examine how different laws and policies have been implemented in different states, what works, what doesn’t, and what can be replicated elsewhere,” Menendez said in a statement on the legislation. “It is important to understand how communities and people are ultimately affected by the legalization of marijuana and its impact on the local economy, public health, criminal justice, employment and our nation’s fight against opioid and other drug addiction. Having this data on hand and making it publicly available can help you make policy decisions and dispel misunderstandings about marijuana legalization. “
The bill requires the Minister of Health and Human Services, Attorney General, Minister of Labor and relevant state health authorities to enter into a ten-year agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the effects of legalized state marijuana programs every two Years. The research would assess the impact of legal recreational and medicinal cannabis programs on the government economy, public health, criminal justice, and employment.
“Congress and the American people need reliable evidence about the impact of states’ legal marijuana programs. We need independent data on how these programs affect government budgets, public health and employment, ”said Garcia. “This is especially important amid the pandemic, which has been characterized by isolation, depression and financial stress for many, and which has resulted in an alarming increase in opioid deaths – especially among color communities.”
Marijuana Data Collection Act puts medical marijuana under the microscope
The study would also analyze the rates of medicinal marijuana use among different population groups, the purpose of medicinal use, and the diseases commonly treated with cannabis. The study would also assess the effects of marijuana on substance abuse, including overdose rates, health facility approval rates, crime rates, and prescription data for opioids and pain relievers.
Young, the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, which represents a state that has legalized adult marijuana, said federal cannabis policy was “archaic” and should be updated.
“One of the best tools available to policy makers is having comprehensive and accurate data. I am very proud to join Senators Menendez, Paul and Congressman Garcia to bring the Marijuana Data Collection Act into effect, ”he said. “This is a very good calculation that will help us learn from other states and communities that have legalized marijuana. As the debate on broader federal cannabis policy continues, the data this legislation can collect will be vital in devising public health strategies and reforming our outdated federal cannabis laws. “
Justin Strekal, the political director of the National Organization for the Reform of the Marijuana Law (NORML), commented on the legislation in an advocacy news release that found that 36 states have legalized the medical use of marijuana and 17 have approved recreational cannabis laws.
“The Marijuana Data Collection Act will ensure that federal discussions and guidelines regarding cannabis policy are based on the best, most reliable, and up-to-date evidence available,” said Strekal. “To be clear, this is not a marijuana reform bill, but a data bill about what is happening across the country. No member of Congress can intellectually justify opposition to this legislation if they are unwilling to deny the fact that the majority of American states violate the Appendix 1 criminalized status of cannabis. “
To become law, the Marijuana Data Collection Act must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Joe Biden.