New Federal Bill Would Require Study of Marijuana Legalization

The newly filed U.S. House bill would require the National Academy of Sciences to investigate the impact of marijuana legalization.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a federal bill that would require the federal government to report on data collected from states that have legalized medical and adult use marijuana.

In a press conference last week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) introduced their Marijuana Data Collection Act, which would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to connect with federal and state government agencies to investigate “the effects of State legalized marijuana programs on the economy, public health, criminal justice and employment.”

“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 in House floor speech previewing the bill. “Our outdated marijuana policies have turned everyday Americans into criminals, strained our criminal justice system, cost taxpayers tremendously and torn families apart.”

The bill requires the research to be carried out by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), in partnership with the Department of Justice, Department of Labor, and individual state governments to collect relevant data. Initial findings would have to be published in a formal report within 18 months of the law’s enactment, and follow-up reports would be issued every two years thereafter.

“This is not a marijuana bill, it is an information bill,” Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, said in an interview with Cannabis Now. “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.”

The bill specifically directs federal officials to study:

  • Financial benefits of legal marijuana, including tax revenue.
  • Rates of medicinal use of marijuana among different population groups, including veterans, individuals with disabilities, and children and the elderly. The report would also provide which medical conditions medical marijuana is most frequently recommended for.
  • Impacts on criminal justice, including rates of marijuana-related arrests, teenage use, and driving under the influence of a substance. The report would also include total monetary amounts expended for marijuana-related enforcement.
  • Impacts on rates of other substance use, specifically in regards to overdoses with opioids and other painkillers. It would also look at data around admissions to health care facilities and emergency rooms related to opioids and other painkillers.
  • Impacts on job creation, including the number of direct and indirect employment opportunities created in each state with legalized marijuana. The report would also provide projections of the industry’s job creation impact over the next five years and the next 10 years.

Other original cosponsors of the bill include the following Representatives:

  • Don Young (R-AK)
  • Darren Soto (D-FL)
  • Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
  • Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
  • Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
  • Matt Gaetz (R-FL)
  • Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
  • Dina Titus (D-NV)
  • Charlie Crist (D-FL)
  • Tom Garrett (R-VA)
  • Lou Correa (D-CA),
  • Barbara Lee (D-CA)
  • Mark Pocan (D-WI)
  • Salud Carbajal (D-CA)

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Moving Toward Cannabis Reform

Gabbard supports full marijuana legalization nationwide and she believes the Marijuana Data Collection Act will provide much-needed data on the benefits of ending prohibition.

“Our bipartisan bill will authorize a non-partisan, evidence-based report that analyzes current marijuana policies across the country and their effects on our communities,” Gabbard said in last week’s press conference.

There are more marijuana reform bills in the 115th Congress than ever before. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) earlier this summer introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana under federal law. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have introduced legislation that would prevent the federal government from interfering with state-legal cannabis operations. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA13) introduced a similar bill meant to protect marijuana states.

Despite being prohibited under federal law, marijuana has been legalized in some capacity in three-fifths of U.S. states. Thirty states have legalized medical marijuana, and nine of those have gone a step further and legalized adult use marijuana.

Nearly 7 of 10 Americans now support legalizing marijuana. Get guidance on how to support the effort for marijuana legalization HERE.

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