A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both houses of Congress reintroduced on Thursday the Marijuana Data Collection Act, a bill that would require the federal government to study the effects of legal cannabis. The measure, which was previously introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in 2018 and again in 2019, is sponsored by Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas, and Rep. Don Young, a Republican from Alaska.
“As more and more states legalize and regulate marijuana, we must take a thorough examination at how different laws and policies in different states have been implemented, what works, what doesn’t, and what can be replicated elsewhere,” Menendez said in a statement on the legislation. “It’s important to understand how communities and people are ultimately impacted by marijuana legalization and its effect on local economies, public health, criminal justice, employment, and our nation’s battle with opioid and other drug addiction. Having this data at our fingertips and making it available to the public will help drive public policy decisions and dispel any misconceptions about marijuana legalization.”
The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and relevant state health agencies to enter a ten-year arrangement with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the effects of legalized state marijuana programs every two years. The research would evaluate the effects of legal recreational and medical cannabis programs on state economies, public health, criminal justice, and employment.
“Congress and the American people need reliable facts on the impact of states’ legal marijuana programs. We need independent data on how these programs impact state budgets, the public health, and employment,” said Garcia. “This is especially important amid the pandemic, that’s been filled for many with isolation, depression, and financial stress that has led to an alarming rise in opioid deaths—especially among communities of color.”
Marijuana Data Collection Act Puts Medical Marijuana Under The Microscope
The study would also analyze the rates of medical marijuana usage on different population groups, the purpose for medicinal usage, and the medical conditions commonly treated with cannabis. The research would also assess marijuana’s impact on substance abuse including overdose rates, healthcare facility admission rates, crime rates, and prescription data for opioids and painkillers.
Young, the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus who represents a state that has legalized marijuana for use by adults, said that federal cannabis policy is “archaic” and should be updated.
“One of the best tools available to policymakers is comprehensive and accurate data. I am very proud to join Senators Menendez and Paul and Congresswoman Garcia in the introduction of the Marijuana Data Collection Act,” he said. “This is a very good bill, and it will help us learn from other states and municipalities that have legalized marijuana. As the debate continues about broader federal cannabis policy, the data that this legislation can help collect will be vital toward crafting policies that promote public health and reform our outdated federal cannabis laws.”
Justin Strekal, the political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), commented on the legislation in a press release from the advocacy group, which noted that 36 states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana and 17 have approved recreational cannabis laws.
“The Marijuana Data Collection Act will ensure that federal discussions and policies specific to cannabis policy are based upon the best, most reliable, and recent evidence available moving forward,” said Strekal. “To be clear, this is not a marijuana reform bill, it is a data bill about what is happening around the country. No member of Congress can intellectually justify opposition to this legislation unless they are willing to deny the fact that the majority of American states are in defiance of the Schedule 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.