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As more states allow cannabis use, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez wants to know what impact legal marijuana as on their residents and budgets.
Toward that end, Menendez on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation to require a study of just that for legal medical and recreational marijuana.
Under the bill, the U.S. Health and Human Services, Justice and Labor departments would join with state health agencies and have the National Academy of Sciences study legal cannabis programs over the next 10 years.
Reports would be issued every two years on the impacts of legal marijuana on state economies, health, criminal justice and employment. The study also would focus on how much money the newly legal cannabis businesses are being into state and local coffers, and what those funds are being spent on.
And the study would look at the medicinal benefits of marijuana, if any, including whether it has reduced the use of opioids or other painkillers.
The results would be submitted to Congress.
“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,” Menendez said. “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.”
The bill was co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Similar legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, and Don Young. R-Alaska.
All but six states, including New Jersey, have either legalized or decriminalized cannabis for either medical or recreational use.
Advocates of legalizing marijuana, including NORML, the National Cannabis Industry Association, and the Minority Cannabis Business Association, have endorsed the bill.
“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,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “To be clear, this is not a marijuana reform bill, it is a data bill about what is happening around the country.”
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Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at @JDSalant.