Abolish the Drug War New Jersey, a coalition of drug war survivors and family members, faith leaders, and grassroots advocacy organizations, held a rally today outside the New Jersey State House to demand transparency around how lawmakers plan to allocate revenue derived from cannabis sales in FY23. 

While current law stipulates that 100 percent of an excise fee and nearly 60 percent of sales tax from cannabis must fund community reinvestment, the state has yet to implement a plan to ensure these funds will be distributed equitably to services and programs that support communities of color most harmed by the drug war. Abolish the Drug War New Jersey is calling on the Legislature and Governor Murphy to establish an inclusive process that allows for meaningful public input in determining how community reinvestment funds are allocated in FY23 through budget hearings, community outreach, listening sessions, and more.  

“It’s long past time for New Jersey to invest in the communities of color that are still feeling the intergenerational impacts of a failed drug war. A budget embodies our values, and we need to see lawmakers take actions that are as powerful as the civil rights ideas that led to cannabis legalization in the first place. We cannot allow any cannabis revenue slated for community reinvestment to go toward police departments, law enforcement, or the criminal legal system,” said Solomon Middleton-Williams, Deputy Director at Newark Community Street Team.  

“New Jersey’s cannabis legalization law included a historic commitment toward reinvesting in communities harmed by decades of marijuana criminalization. Now, as the first cannabis revenues flow in, New Jersey can be a leader in beginning to repair the harms of the drug war. Lawmakers must follow the lead of community members and seek their input on how dollars reserved for community reinvestment should be spent. We urge lawmakers to keep those who were most harmed by marijuana prohibition at the forefront of the community reinvestment process,” said Ami Kachalia, Campaign Strategist at the ACLU of New Jersey.

“Cannabis criminalization and the War on Drugs fueled decades of disinvestment from communities of color. But the legalization of cannabis creates an opportunity for New Jersey to begin to right these wrongs—both through the creation of an equitable industry and through investment in the very communities that were most harmed by prohibition. Healthy communities require investments in housing and food assistance, childcare, tuition support, harm reduction programs, and other social supports that increase access to opportunity. But that requires all New Jerseyans to engage with the budget process and join us in calling for a real fiscal commitment to racial and social justice,” said James Williams, Director of Racial Justice Policy at Fair Share Housing Center.  

“Cannabis legalization passed with the support of racial and social justice advocates only because it included provisions that required revenue to be reinvested into communities most harmed by the drug war. Now, as New Jersey begins to collect its first revenues from recreational sales, lawmakers must prioritize and center the voices of those racially targeted by prohibition as they create a plan for spending cannabis revenue. These investments are critical. We will not tolerate the perpetuation of a punitive system that continues to punish Black bodies,”  said Dr. Rev. Charles Boyer, Founding Director of Salvation and Social Justice.

“As our communities look to recover from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, and seek to return to a new normal, It’s critical at this moment for all New Jerseyans to engage with the community reinvestment process and join us in calling for a real commitment to racial and social justice. As the state prepares a plan to disburse community reinvestment dollars from cannabis sales, they must establish a transparent and robust outreach system to listen to the people on the ground, fighting every day to better their communities. We must remember Black and Brown New Jerseyans overwhelmingly bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is no better time to invest in our communities. The Governor and the Legislature must heed the call of our communities and begin to repair the harms of the devastating war on drugs,” said Jesselly De La Cruz, Executive Director of the Latino Action Network Foundation.