The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) held their Central Jersey hearing on how to spend adult-use cannabis tax revenue acquired through the Social Impact Fee tax.
Reverend Charles Boyer of Salvation and Social Justice said the money should go to “health and trying to cover some of the spaces between coverage, particularly around mental health, black maternal health centers led by black women.”
He believed the money should be used to revitalize blighted spaces.
Boyer said a community response team for quality-of-life issues instead of police would also be a good idea.
“Particularly since the cannabis piece was really used to inflict a lot of harm on Black People,” he said.
Earl Brown of the OCM Advisory group applauded infrastructure talk for restorative justice noted by the NJCRC. He advocated for the establishment of an
entrepreneurship ecosystem to allow entrepreneurship to grow troubled communities.
“This is an opportunity for those communities to get in on the ground floor. There’s a lot of hoops you have to manage. The process can be burdensome,” Brown said.
He advocated for cannabis tax money to go to a public-private entrepreneurship program whereby businesses and the government would work together.
Raquel Romans-Henry of Salvation and Social Justice said War on Drugs ruined many communities in various ways, and the money should be invested in those places.
“Any conversation around community should begin here,” she said.
She said it could be spent on public education, affordable housing, and healthcare. Romans-Henry said law enforcement should not receive additional funding.
Manufacturing micro license applicant Raymond Mercer praised the ideas mentioned by Commissioner Charles Barker on how many could be reinvested in struggling communities.
“The problem for using the tax revenue for future cannabis social equity applicants in the future,” he said.
Mercer said the conversion fee from medical cannabis dispensaries switching to adult-use should go to social equity applicants and be run independently from the NJCRC.
“Hiring more people for the CRC. I’m sure you guys are backed up. You mentioned 100’s of applicants, 45 pages each. That’s 45,000 pages. That’s a lot of people who need to read those pages. I think helping the CRC help itself would help everyone,” Mercer said.
“Some of the funds should go to funding a study to look at the impact on the War on Drugs specifically had here in New Jersey,” Rev. Derrick Green of the Interfaith Action Movement and Black Issues Convention. “Their communities have been impacted for generations, and that needs to be studied.”
He said his cousin was jailed in the 80s and 90s, which has impacted his children and grandchildren.
Green liked the idea of it being spent on affordable housing and job training for adults.
“Some of those dollars should go to funding the social equity licenses and the micro licenses, both from a capital investment and an operational investment,” he said.
Vice Chair of Paterson Housing Authority Gemelly Caraballo recommended cannabis tax money go to fair housing.
Cannabis activist Jeffrey King liked the idea of the cannabis tax money going to communities most harmed by the War on Drugs and healthcare.
“A lot of people don’t have dental care. A lot of people don’t have vision,” he said.
“There’s a need for sufficient infrastructure in place to fulfill the social equity mandate,” said Hassan Austin, a businessman working on social equity issues with some towns.
He said a local business incubator program or center for entrepreneurs to help develop their goods and services, including funding should be developed.
“Incubators are proven business models. They become the fabric of the community. The community is invested in this space,” Austin added.
Dr. Monique Hamilton said money should be spent on education and workshops directed at the public, particularly seniors. She said the lack of education caused towns to opt out.
“I am touched by the many comments and unique recommendations here today,” said Commissioner Krista Nash. “There’s nothing more we would like to see than communities in New Jersey harmed thrive. We are listening to you.”
She encouraged people to share information about the hearing next week.