Legalization Bill Approved in Senate Committee Makes Strides Toward Community Reinvestment, But Additional Equity Measures Still Sought

December 14, 2020

A new amended version of S21, a bill to implement the constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis in New Jersey, advanced in the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring New Jersey closer to legalization for adult use.

The new version includes significant community reinvestment provisions previously added to the bill through two income streams dedicated to social and racial justice: 100 percent of the cultivator excise tax and 70 percent of the sales tax to fund reinvestment into communities hit hardest by the drug war, which has disproportionately targeted Black and brown communities.

The bill also reinstates a severe cap on the number of licenses after previously amending the legislation to eliminate all caps, awarding only 37 cultivator licenses for the first 24 months after the bill is enacted. The bill did not include several important justice measures, such as: restoring dedicated funding for expungement, limiting workplace drug testing, and, crucially, closing a loophole that allows well-resourced businesses to claim impact zone applicant status rather than residents.

The following quote can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha:

“New Jerseyans overwhelmingly voted to legalize cannabis recognizing the injustices wrought by prohibition, and the Legislature has the responsibility to meaningfully begin to repair the racially inequitable harms of the drug war.

“This version of the bill maintains the Senate’s commitment to allocating 70 percent of cannabis sales tax revenue and 100 percent of an excise tax to reinvestment in communities hit hardest by the racial injustices of aggressive cannabis enforcement. We thank Chairman Scutari and all the lawmakers who informed the tax allocation and prioritized community interests. The true measure of this reinvestment, however, relies on the amount of opportunity for community input, and we call on legislators and regulators to further incorporate those important community voices into decisions about where resources are directed.

“Other states’ experiences have taught us that unless an inclusive and equitable industry is built with intentionality, legalization will still perpetuate the injustices and racism of prohibition. We acknowledge the great strides taken to build equity into this bill, and we know that the work toward justice is just beginning. While the work is unfinished, we applaud the Senate Judiciary Committee for releasing the bill. We are committed to continuing the work with further legislation and regulations to strive for an inclusive, equitable industry and justice for communities of color across the state.”

Category: Criminal Justice

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