WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would create a first-of-its-kind comprehensive study into the impacts and effects of state-legalized medicinal and non-medicinal marijuana programs. The study would serve to better inform public policy, increase transparency by making the data collected publicly available, and generate a series of best practices recommendations.
The Marijuana Data Collection Act is sponsored by Sens. Menendez and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas-29) and Don Young (R-Alaska). It 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, and update, a study on the effects of legalized state marijuana programs biennially. This study would evaluate the impacts and effects of state-legalized medicinal and non-medicinal marijuana programs on state economies, public health, criminal justice, and employment.
“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. “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.”
“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. 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," said Rep. Garcia. "By entrusting the National Academy of Sciences to objectively study state marijuana programs, we will have unbiased information to make decisions based in reality, 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 need of an urgent update,” said Rep. Young. “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. 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.”
While there are marijuana legalization or decriminalization laws on the books for recreational or medicinal purposes in all but six states, to date, there has yet to be a comprehensive federal analysis on the effects of state-legalized cannabis or marijuana on state economies, public health, criminal justice, and employment.
In addition, the Marijuana Data Collection Act would require the study to assess the revenues, taxes, and other monetary amounts generated via the state-authorized programs, how these funds were utilized, and the program(s)’s total impact on the state and its budget. The study would also break down the rates of medicinal marijuana usage on different population groups, the purpose for the medicinal usage, and the medical conditions primarily treated with marijuana. And it would assess the impact marijuana had on: substance abuse via opioid/painkiller overdose rates; healthcare facility opioid/painkiller overdose admission rates; opioid/painkiller crime rates; and opioid/painkiller prescription rates.
The results of the study would be submitted to Congress, and the best practices on data collection would be published.
The Marijuana Data Collection Act is supported by NORML, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), and the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA).
“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 an 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.”
Last month, Sens. Menendez and Paul introduced the CLAIM Act to open up insurance markets to cannabis and cannabis-related businesses operating legally under state law. They have also cosponsored the SAFE Banking Act that would do the same for the banking system, allowing these state-authorized cannabis businesses to open accounts, write checks, seek financing, accept credit cards from customers, process payroll, and access other banking products.
In the 2020 election, voters in New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, Mississippi and South Dakota approved of creating or expanding the legal use of marijuana. Earlier this year, New Jersey, which had legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, enacted historic reform legislation legalizing and regulating adult recreational use.