Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) led a group of bipartisan lawmakers in introducing The Marijuana Data Collection Act. The act calls upon the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to collect and synthesize relevant data and to generate a formal report to Congress quantifying the impact of statewide marijuana legalization on matters specific to public health, safety, the economy, and criminal justice, among other issues.
Numerous published peer-reviewed studies have assessed the impact of state-regulated marijuana legalization on these issues, but despite the publication of these reports, a lack of consensus and acceptance of this data continue, particularly amongst members of Congress and the Department of Justice.
Speaking about the new bill on the House floor, Congresswoman Gabbard stated, “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. Our outdated marijuana policies have turned everyday Americans into criminals, strained our criminal justice system, cost taxpayers tremendously and torn families apart.”
You can watch the press conference announcing the legislation featuring the bill’s lead GOP cosponsor Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), lead Democrat cosponsor Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), we well as former U.S. Attorneys Barry Grissom (KS) and Bill Nettles (SC) below:
Commenting on the legislation, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “This report will ensure that federal discussions and policies specific to this issue are based upon the best and most reliable evidence available. The data collected and compiled by the National Academy of Sciences will help to guide future marijuana legislation at federal, state, and local levels. This is not a marijuana bill, it is an information bill. 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.”
This bill requires data collection and study with regard to the impact of state-regulated marijuana legalization on public health, safety, the economy, and criminal justice, among other issues. Specifically, this bill requires the Secretary of HHS to coordinate with the DOJ, DOL, and States (to the greatest extent possible) and direct the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to publish a biannual study on the health, safety, and economic effects of state legalized marijuana programs. The report would also outline best practices for state-led data collection, as well as recommendations to overcome any barriers preventing data collection and gaps in data.
Thirty-one states, Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis, while an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes. According to a 2018 CAP poll, 68 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and according to Quinnipiac University, 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy.
To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.