A year ago, New Jersey legalized and decriminalized cannabis — a policy shift that came after years of community members and advocates calling attention to the decades of harm caused by the racially disparate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.
In the year since, we’ve made some progress to right the wrongs of the past, with more than 360,000 marijuana convictions wiped clean. But more must be done to implement legalization with equity and justice at the core. Critically, we must prioritize meaningful public input in the community reinvestment process.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission – a body tasked with setting up rules for the new marketplace – just announced three virtual public hearings. They want to know: once cannabis sales begin, how should the collected taxes and fees be reinvested in New Jersey communities?
The CRC has released three dates for the virtual hearings by region:
- North Jersey: Wednesday, March 2, 7-9 pm
- Central Jersey: Wednesday, March 9, 7-9 pm
- South Jersey: Wednesday, March 16, 7-9 pm
This is a particularly important moment for towns that have been most harmed by cannabis prohibition.
Under the new law, much of the money from cannabis sales will be invested in impact zones. Specifically, 100% of a Social Equity Excise Fee and almost 60% of the cannabis sales tax revenue will be directed to social justice initiatives in those communities. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars a year. People living in these communities must have a meaningful say in how that money is spent.
These hearings are good first steps in an inclusive and participatory process and the CRC, Legislature, and Governor need to build more opportunities, including more public hearings, meetings with local groups, and an advisory board of impacted people.
In implementing cannabis legalization, New Jersey can be a national leader in prioritizing reinvestment in communities most harmed by prohibition. But we can only succeed if we maintain our focus on equity, inclusivity, and racial justice through the regulatory process and beyond.