Facts Should Determine Marijuana Debate
Marijuana legalization is a controversial topic on both the state and federal level. While there is no shortage of opinions on the topic, there aren’t a lot of facts. Thankfully, that could soon change with the introduction of the Marijuana Data Collection Act.
The federal bill calls on the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the effects of State legalized marijuana programs on the economy, public health, criminal justice, and employment, among other issues. The legislation specifically requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to collect the data in coordination with the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and relevant state agencies.
The academy would be required to submit its first report within 18 months, with regular updates every two years. Data that would be collected under the bill includes: the monetary amounts generated through revenues, taxes, and any other financial benefits; the rates of medicinal use among different population groups; the rates of marijuana-related arrests for possession, cultivation, and distribution (including driving under the influence and arrests related to teenage use of marijuana); and the amount of jobs created in each State, differentiating between direct and indirect employment.
In support of the bill, co-sponsor Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) said:
For decades, bad data and misinformation have fueled the failed War on Drugs that has ruined people’s lives, torn families apart, and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars incarcerating Americans for nonviolent marijuana charges. In 2016 alone, nearly 600,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession. Our laws must be informed by facts — not emotion, manufactured stigma and myths. Our bipartisan legislation, the Marijuana Data Collection Act, will lay the groundwork for real reform by producing an objective, evidence-based report on current marijuana laws that exist in 31 states across the country, and their impact on our communities.
As discussed in a prior article, marijuana ended up a Class I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), largely due to bad data. During the 1970s, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommended that marijuana possession should not be criminalized based on its findings that it posed little risk to the public. “Looking only at the effects on the individual, there, is little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis,” the report stated. Despite these findings, President Richard Nixon took a different direction, declaring all drug abuse as “public enemy number one in the United States.”
The Marijuana Data Collection Act should be something that politicians on both sides of the debate can support. It would effectively take politics out of the marijuana legalization debate and replace it with verifiable facts. The other lead co-sponsor is Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). Other original cosponsors of the bill include Reps. 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) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA).