This week, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers has proposed a new attempt to correct this information deficit – the Marijuana Data Collection Act.
This new bill, presented on Tuesday by Reps. If the bill passes, NAS would have 18 months to publish their initial findings, and would be required to release follow-up reports every two years. With regards to public health, the study would focus on the impact of legal pot on opioid use and abuse, as well as the effectiveness of cannabis as a medical treatment. The bill would also direct NAS to study the financial impact of legal weed, including the tax revenue collected by states as well as how the states allocated these funds. Researchers would also be tasked with studying the number of jobs that the cannabis industry is creating in these states, including projections for future growth.
The study would also investigate the criminal and social justice impacts of legalization, including the rates of marijuana-related arrests, broken down by race, sex, age, and ethnicity. Researchers would look into the total amount of funding that federal and state governments are spending on prosecuting cannabis offenders. “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. 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.”
The new bill is one of many cannabis-related measures to appear before Congress this year, and may have the greatest chance of success, as it is by far the most conservative of the lot. The bill only asks the federal government to research legalization, and would not directly reform federal cannabis laws in any way.
Although congressional support for cannabis reform has been growing over the past decade, Republican leadership remains strongly opposed to legalization.