Amid a flurry of federal legislation that would advance cannabis reform in the U.S., the Marijuana Data Collection Act stands out as one bill... Federal Bill Would Generate Scientific Report on Legalization for Congress and Trump, As White House Builds ‘Negative’ Cannabis Narrative

Amid a flurry of federal legislation that would advance cannabis reform in the U.S., the Marijuana Data Collection Act stands out as one bill that would directly address the narrative and national mythos of cannabis. In an era of greater political obfuscation—and in a subject area fraught with decades of misconceptions and anti-marijuana propaganda—the bill is seen as a vital step in the path toward federal legalization.

In a Buzzfeed News story published Aug. 29, reporter Dominic Holden revealed that the Trump administration “has secretly amassed a committee of federal agencies from across the government to combat public support for marijuana and cast state legalization measures in a negative light, while attempting to portray the drug as a national threat.”

The news immediately drew vocal backlash from industry stakeholders.

“These are the death rattles of marijuana prohibition,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a public statement. “Those who seek to maintain the oppressive policies of cannabis criminalization are grasping at straws in their effort to undo the public policy progresses that have now been enacted in a majority of states, and that are widely supported by voters of both major political parties.”

In April, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced that he’d reached an apparent deal with Trump to protect states’ rights to legalize and regulate cannabis markets, referencing what would eventually become the STATES ACT.

Trump, however, has never made his position on cannabis reform entirely clear. He has yet to specifically promote any federal legalization efforts in a public forum, although he did indicate in June that he “probably will end up supporting” the STATES Act.  

Holden’s report, in fact, signals the exact opposite sentiment from the White House and what’s being called the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee. According to Holden:

“The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate,” says a summary of a July 27 meeting of the White House and nine departments. In a follow-up memo, which provided guidance for responses from federal agencies, White House officials told department officials, “Departments should provide … the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends.”

The Marijuana Data Collection Act would counteract an executive-branch measure like the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee.

The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), has thus far picked up 27 co-sponsors.

Tulsi Gabbard. Image: © Sumanah | Flickr Creative Commons

“For far too long, our country’s outdated policies on marijuana have been based on—and continued—because of misplaced stigma and outdated myths that really don’t stack up and aren’t based on any kind of scientific study or facts or statistics,” Gabbard said at a press conference announcing the bill. “As a result, we have seen a failed war on drugs being carried out for decades, tearing families apart [and] fracturing our communities at a tremendous social cost, as well as economic cost to our taxpayers—heavily weighing on an already overburdened criminal justice system.”

Watch the full press conference:

The bill was introduced July 24. Were the Marijuana Data Collection to be signed into law, the National Academy of Sciences would generate a report (and would continue to update that report) on the following subject areas:

  • REVENUES AND STATE ALLOCATIONS: The monetary amounts generated through revenues, taxes, and any other financial benefits; The purposes and relative amounts for which these funds were used; The total impact on the State and its budget.
  • MEDICINAL USE OF MARIJUANA: The rates of medicinal use among different population groups, including children, the elderly, veterans, and individuals with disabilities; The purpose of such use; Which medical conditions medical marijuana is most frequently purchased and used for.
  • SUBSTANCE USE: The rates of overdoses with opioids and other painkillers; The rates of admission in health care facilities, emergency rooms, and volunteer treatment facilities related to overdoses with opioids and other painkillers; The rates of opioid-related and other painkiller-related crimes to one’s self and to the community; The rates of opioid prescriptions and other pain killers.
  • IMPACTS ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The rates of marijuana-related arrests for possession, cultivation, and distribution, and of these arrests, the percentages that involved a secondary charge unrelated to marijuana possession, cultivation, or distribution (including the rates of such arrests on the Federal level, including the number of Federal prisoners so arrested, dis¬ag-gre¬gat¬ed by sex, age, race, and ethnicity of the prisoners; and the rates of such arrests on the State level, including the number of State prisoners so arrested, disaggregated by sex, age, race, and ethnicity); The rates of arrests and citations on the Federal and State levels related to teenage use of marijuana; The rates of arrests on the Federal and State levels for unlawful driving under the influence of a substance, and the rates of such arrests involving marijuana; The rates of marijuana-related prosecutions, court filings, and imprisonments; The total monetary amounts expended for marijuana-related enforcement, arrests, court filings and proceedings, and imprisonment before and after legalization, including Federal expenditures disaggregated according to whether the laws being enforced were Federal or State; The total number and rate of defendants in Federal criminal prosecutions asserting as a defense that their conduct was in compliance with applicable State law legalizing marijuana usage, and the effects of such assertions.
  • EMPLOYMENT: The amount of jobs created in each State, differentiating between direct and indirect employment; The amount of jobs expected to be created in the next 5 years, and in the next 10 years, as a result of the State’s marijuana industry.

Top photo by Martin Falbisoner

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