With the nation’s cannabis laws created as a patchwork by lawmakers and activists from state to state, it’s widely understood the quality of data coming out of those states is similarly scrambled.
To respond to this problem of incongruous state cannabis data, Congressional members Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, and Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida, introduced the Marijuana Data Collection Act this morning.
The act calls upon the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to collect and synthesize relevant data on the growing wave of marijuana reform and implementation taking place across the United States. The act then requires NAS to use that newly acquired knowledge 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.
Because getting the numbers on cannabis isn’t always easy, the bill requires the secretary of health and human services to coordinate with the Department of Justice, Department of Labor and individual state governments as much as they can to comply.
Although a name like “Marijuana Data Collection Act” recalls frightening images of the federal government surveilling the cannabis industry’s phone records, if the act passes, the two reports per year from NAS would be invaluable in piecing together the industry picture as a whole.
“This report will ensure that federal discussions and policies specific to this issue are based upon the best and most reliable evidence available,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Cannabis Now.
“The data collected and compiled by the National Academy of Sciences will help to guide future marijuana legislation at federal, state and local levels,” Strekal said.
The folks at NORML also noted that numerous published peer-reviewed studies have assessed the impact of state-regulated marijuana legalization, but despite the publication of these reports, a lack of consensus and acceptance of this data continues, particularly amongst members of Congress and the Department of Justice.
But this new report with the most accurate numbers available should provide some hard numbers that may very well give cannabis advocates some pushback room.
“This is not a marijuana bill, it is an information bill,” said Strekal. “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 folks at the National Cannabis Industry Association were also excited to see a neutral federal agency leading the effort for the report.
“We look forward to a study conducted by an independent federal agency that isn’t invested in continuing marijuana prohibition,” NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith in a statement to Cannabis Now.
Smith thinks the federal government doing the cannabis data analysis in-house will force their eyes on to some of the real success stories of regulated marijuana in recent years.
“Lawmakers and regulators at the state and federal level will benefit from a serious look at the effects of making cannabis legal for medical and adult use,” said Smith. “There is already plenty of evidence showing that regulation is working in the states, but we need to look at the potential public health and economic impacts of further reforms, and the real costs of continuing to ban a substance that research shows may be helping to reduce the damage caused by the opioid problem.”
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