Implementation of cannabis legalization in New Jersey is at a pivotal moment as lawmakers have a short window between now and the end of June, when they finalize the budget, to create a framework for allocating community reinvestment dollars derived from the adult-use cannabis industry. In the budget, lawmakers will determine for the first time where tax revenue will go, how to ensure it serves racial and social justice, and how it will benefit communities most harmed by the drug war.

In doing so, it’s imperative that lawmakers follow the lead of communities, which requires an inclusive process that actively solicits input from those most affected and provides meaningful opportunities for community members to have their voices heard. To build up the communities most harmed by the drug war, New Jerseyans need investments toward essential functions like social services, housing and food assistance, education supports, harm-reduction programs, and other programs that increase access to opportunity.

Based on revenue projections, more than $60 million in community reinvestment is expected between FY22 and FY23. It’s imperative that elected officials publicly share how the community reinvestment funds are allocated in order to build transparency and to ensure that none of the cannabis revenue promised for community reinvestment is used to provide funding to law enforcement, criminal legal system stakeholders, or other related programs.

Prioritizing equity in the new cannabis industry includes creating access to ownership for people who have borne the harms of aggressive enforcement of prohibition. New Jersey must provide financial assistance, technical assistance, and employment and mentorship programs to social equity businesses, diversely owned businesses, and impact zone businesses, as well as supplemental grants for municipalities that have chosen to implement local programs aimed at increasing equity in the cannabis industry.

The following statement can be attributed to ACLU-NJ campaign strategist Ami Kachalia: 

“When New Jerseyans voted to legalize cannabis, it was after nearly ten years of advocacy calling for an industry that prioritizes equity and racial justice. Now, we’re at a point in the implementation process where we can begin to see those values in action – lawmakers can honor the will of the people by ensuring reinvestment in the Black and brown communities most harmed by prohibition.”