Earlier this year TNMNews had the opportunity to cover the NCIA Lobby Days event in Washington D.C. One of our stops was the office of D-Representative Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii, where we had the opportunity to talk to one of her aids, Patrick Koetzle. At the time he told us that he was focused on crafting a bill about data collection as it pertains to state legal cannabis consumers. Earlier this week the Marijuana Data Collection Act was introduced by Rep. Gabbard along with a group of bipartisan members of Congress including Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) July 24, 2018
The purpose of the Marijuana Data Collection Act is to help officials, scientists and the people of the United States better understand the impacts of marijuana legalization in states throughout the country. Laws vary significantly from state-to-state. 9 states are in varying stages of implementing an adult-use market, 30 states are in varying stages of implementing a medical marijuana market and only four states still completely prohibit any form of cannabis derived products.
The bill would seek to acquire data on a wide variety of cannabis related issues including:
- State revenues from the sale of cannabis and where the money is being allocated
- Who and for what medical cannabis is being used for
- Overdose rates including those related to opioids and other painkillers
- Criminal justice impacts
- Employment rates
Once the data is collected, reasonable projections on the rate of consumption, job creation, demographics, arrests and convictions of illegal possession of marijuana and its impacts, and overdose rates will become more realistic. It is a logical step but not an easy one considering the disparities in laws and the current stages of implementation each state is currently in as it pertains to legalizing cannabis. In fact, it is a logistical nightmare. Analysts look to eliminate as many anomalies or disparities as possible in studies in order to provide the most accurate and telling results.
As an example, an Arizona court recently ruled that all cannabis extracts are illegal under state law making only cannabis flower legally available to medical marijuana patients, while Florida has banned all smoking of marijuana due to what it sees as negative health impacts, therefore eliminating the sale of medical marijuana flower entirely. In one state a medical marijuana patient is arrested for having marijuana flower while in the other state the patient is arrested for having an extract. Vaping cannabis oil extracts is much different than smoking a joint and patients feel very different results from either method. Another example are all of the metropolitan areas like Atlanta and New Orleans that have decriminalized marijuana and police have virtually stopped arresting people for marijuana possession, but the states of Georgia and Louisiana are still enforcing marijuana laws.
The Marijuana Data Collection Act is a great first step, if it passes, to begin the process of creating a well organized regulated market for cannabis and providing more incentive to either reschedule or entirely deschedule cannabis from the CSA. However, meaningful data that will help cannabis businesses, states, law enforcement, courts or health officials make well informed decision without there being a tremendous amount of dissent, is probably far off. How would you like to be the analyst that had to break down these numbers and provide the private and public sector with meaningful data pertaining to the effects of marijuana legalization and its consumption?