Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require a federal study on the impact of marijuana legalization and prohibition. Gabbard was joined by a bipartisan group of more than a dozen Representatives who have signed on as cosponsors of the bill.
The Marijuana Data Collection Act would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to work with state and federal government agencies to collect data about “the effects of State legalized marijuana programs on the economy, public health, criminal justice and employment,” according to Forbes.
War on Drugs Wastes Billions
At a press conference, Gabbard said that for too long drug policy has been formulated without sound information on its impact on people and resources.
“For decades, bad data and misinformation have fueled the failed war on drugs that’s wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, incarcerating Americans for nonviolent marijuana charges,” Gabbard said.
“Our outdated marijuana policies have turned everyday Americans into criminals, strained our criminal justice system, cost taxpayers tremendously and torn families apart. Our federal policies should be based on actual science and fact, not misplaced stigma and outdated myths,” she added.
So far, only Representatives who have previously demonstrated a willingness to reform cannabis laws have signed on as cosponsors. Justin Strekal, the political director for NORML, said that lawmakers who oppose cannabis should also support the measure.
“This is not a marijuana bill, it is an information bill,” Strekal said. “No member of Congress can intellectually justify opposition to this legislation. Our public policy needs to be based on sound data and science, not gut feelings or fear-mongering. Approving the Marijuana Data Collection Act would provide legislators with reliable and fact-based information to help them decide what direction is most beneficial to society when it comes to marijuana policy.”
Data To Be Collected
Gabbard’s bill calls for data on several specific cannabis-related issues to be collected. The financial benefit of legalization on governments, including taxes and other revenues would be determined. How the funds are used and their impact on state budgets would also be tracked.
The impact of legalized weed on employment would also be researched under the bill. The number of jobs directly and indirectly created by the cannabis industry would be determined, as well as forecasts for future employment figures.
Researchers would also study the use of medicinal cannabis, including by population groups that include youth, senior citizens, the disabled, and military veterans. The conditions being treated by medical marijuana patients would also be studied.
The impact of cannabis policy on criminal justice would also be studied. Data on marijuana arrests and convictions for different population groups would be determined. The costs of marijuana prohibition including police, prosecution, and incarceration would be tallied. Data on federal defendants who cited compliance with state cannabis laws as a defense would be also be studied.
The bill also calls for a review of the use and abuse of opioids and the toll addiction to the painkillers is taking on public health.
Bill Requires Regular Reports
If the Marijuana Data Collection Act is passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Trump, the National Academy of Sciences would conduct the necessary research and collect the mandated data. The academy would be required to submit its first report within 18 months. The bill also calls for follow-up reports to be published every two years after that.