The ACLU of New Jersey today issued recommendations for creating an inclusive and accessible cannabis marketplace and urged the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) to adopt final regulations that prioritize racial and social justice. After decades of marijuana criminalization and disproportionate harm to Black and brown communities across the state, New Jersey took the historic step of legalizing cannabis in February 2021, with the aim of building an equitable industry that reflects the diversity of the state. Doing so will require a comprehensive effort, including funding and technical assistance, among other resources.  

“When New Jerseyans overwhelmingly voted to legalize cannabis, it was with racial and social justice at the core. With profits from cannabis sales already flowing toward operators that have historically dominated the market, the CRC’s final regulations must empower smaller entrepreneurs – especially those affected by the drug war – to succeed. It is imperative that Black, brown, and lower-income communities who bore the brunt of aggressive prohibition have a meaningful ownership stake in the cannabis industry,” said ACLU-NJ Campaign Strategist Ami Kachalia

The ACLU of New Jersey’s recommendations to create an inclusive and accessible cannabis marketplace, centering racial and social justice, include: 

  • Dedicate significant funding to social equity and diversely owned applicants in the form of grants or no-interest/low-interest loans, following the example of New York’s newly created $200 million equity fund. Lack of access to capital remains a key barrier to entry for many individuals aiming to start and grow a cannabis business.   
  • Create technical assistance programs, fee waivers, and other resources to help social equity and diversely owned applicants navigate the application process.   
  • Establish employment and mentorship programs directed toward social equity and impact zone applicants and diversely owned businesses.  
  • Implement stringent data privacy protections in systems tracking the purchase of retail cannabis to prevent against adverse immigration consequences for noncitizens.  
  • Provide guidelines encouraging municipalities to prioritize equity in the local industry, including removing licensing caps, reducing municipal fees, and creating municipal equity programs. 
  • Allocate funding to the Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans, and Women Cannabis Business Development to surpass the goal in the legislation of 15 percent ownership by minority business owners and fifteen percent ownership by disabled veterans and women. 
  • Proactively conduct inclusive public education and solicit input from communities harmed most by cannabis prohibition when adopting regulations and in developing advisory recommendations to the New Jersey Legislature on the use of revenue collected from the Social Equity Excise Fee. 

In proposing its final set of regulations, the CRC has opened the last public comment period, which will close on September 30. Read more about the ACLU-NJ’s recommendations