There is a new effort in both chambers of Congress to create a first-of-its-kind comprehensive study on the impacts of cannabis legislation across recreational and medical marketplaces.

The Marijuana Data Collection Act would require various cabinet-level positions – including the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and relevant state health agencies – to enter a 10-year arrangement with the National Academy of Sciences to execute the strategy.

The NAS would study the effects of all state cannabis programs on their economies, public health, criminal justice and employment. Over the decade, researchers would issue a report every two years on their findings.

The bill is sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) and Don Young (R-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,” said Sen. Menendez in a statement announcing the bill. “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.”

We asked Sen. Menendez’s office if policy movements in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut make it easier to act?

“As more and more states pass and implement cannabis laws, it inevitably puts pressure on Congress to act,” Steven Sandberg, the senator’s press secretary, replied. “That’s why the Marijuana Data Collection Act Sen. Menendez introduced today is so important. It will give policymakers – both in Washington and in statehouses across the country – the information they need to make smart decisions, craft good, effective legislation, and build the support needed to pass them into law.”

Sandberg pointed to Menendez’s work as a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee where his hopes for continued progress on the cannabis reform front are clearly evident. “Sen. Menendez is fighting to pass his CLAIM Act and the SAFE Banking Act that will both help legal marijuana businesses grow and thrive.”

The bill’s sponsors in the house echoed the need for action.

“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,” Rep. Garcia said. “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.”

Garcia believes entrusting the National Academy of Sciences to objectively study state marijuana programs will provide unbiased information to make decisions based on the hard data, “not historical prejudices or preconceived ideas.”

“As co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and the representative of a state that legalized adult-use marijuana, I know as well as anybody that federal cannabis policy is archaic and in need of an urgent update,” said Rep. Young. “One of the best tools available to policymakers is comprehensive and accurate data.”

Young argued this is a very good bill that will provide lawmakers plenty of information to think on in the years ahead.

“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,” said Rep. Young.

Cannabis advocates are supporting the bill. The groups to come out in favor so far include NORML, the National Cannabis Industry Association and the Minority Cannabis Business Association. It’s fair to expect other names to be added to that list.

“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 NORML Political Director Justin 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.”


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