The ACLU-NJ urged the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) to adopt final regulations prioritizing racial and social justice.

They have issued recommendations for creating an inclusive and accessible cannabis marketplace they would like the NJCRC to follow.

The NJCRC published its final rules on August 1st.

New Jersey took the historic step of legalizing cannabis to build an equitable cannabis industry that reflects the state’s diversity. 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,” ACLU-NJ Campaign Strategist Ami Kachalia said. “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,” she added.

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

  • Dedicate significant funding to social equity and diversely owned applicants through grants or no-interest/low-interest loans, like New York’s $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.
  • Provide guidelines encouraging tows to prioritize equity in the local industry, including removing licensing caps, reducing municipal fees, and creating municipal equity programs.
  • Create technical assistance programs and fee waivers to help social equity and diversely owned applicants navigate the application process.   
  • Establish employment and mentorship programs for social equity and impact zone applicants and diversely owned businesses.  
  • Increase funding for the Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans, and Women Cannabis Business Development to surpass the implementation legislation’s goal of 15 percent ownership by minority business owners and 15 percent ownership by disabled veterans and women.  
  • Conduct inclusive public education and solicit input from communities most harmed by cannabis prohibition when adopting regulations and when developing advisory recommendations to the New Jersey Legislature on revenue collected from the Social Equity Excise Fee. 
  • Implement stringent data privacy protections when tracking the purchase of retail cannabis to prevent adverse consequences for non-citizens.

The NJCRC has opened the last public comment period, which will close on September 30th.

Unfortunately, the NJCRC has yet to issue guidance or regulations on edibles, cannabis consumption lounges, or workplace impairment. It remains unclear when those key issues will be addressed and how they will be worked into the regulatory process. Like everything else in New Jersey cannabis, it is delayed.

The NJCRC has no meeting scheduled for August. Their next meeting is September 9th.

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