The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) held a hearing on how the Social Equity Excise fee tax revenue from adult-use cannabis sales should be spent.
“Black and Latino people and communities were and are unfairly overly criminalized based on targeted policies and practices. It is imperative we hear from you. So, the Governor and Legislature can be guided by you about how tax revenue should be distributed,” CRC Commissioner Charles Barker said.
Spending Cannabis Tax Revenue
“The CRC does not control the allocation of tax revenue,” he noted.
Barker said they will make a report that will be sent to the Governor.
NJCRC Executive Director Jeff Brown said they are promoting a diverse and inclusive industry. They want it “to be a national model for sensible oversight.”
He noted they wanted public recommendations on how to spend the adult-use cannabis tax revenue.
Brown said that tax revenue from last April to June went to fund the NJ Business Action Center (NJBAC) technical assistance program for aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs.
“We heard last year folks wanted help in the form of technical assistance, wanted the help in the form of capital, access to capital, and needed investment from the State,” he said.
Barker said that last year, many wanted to see money go to economic development.
He said revenue could also go to the forthcoming cannabis grants program.
“That could be the first of its kind in the nation,” Barker said.
He noted the great need for it.
“The public does not want to see any tax revenue fund law enforcement,” he noted.
However, Barker noted that the legislature controls that. Revenue is supposed to go to law enforcement because the law requires funding agents specializing in determining if people are high, Drug Recognition Experts (DREs).
“The public did express said they did want to see funds go toward pub re-entry programs,” he added.
Barker said the State working with community colleges on cannabis programs could be a pathway of entry for a diverse range of people to enter the industry.
He said the growing number of New Jersey licensed cannabis companies have already generated $200 million in tax revenue in last year’s second and third quarters. Fourth quarter New Jersey adult-use cannabis tax revenue data remains forthcoming.
“The CRC needs to continue to build its infrastructure, needs to continue to hire personnel,” Barker noted.
He also explained that many have complained that towns are hindering the progress of the New Jersey cannabis industry.
Social Equity Excise Fee Details
NJCRC Commissioner Krista Nash explained the Social Equity Excise fee rate is $1.52 per oz, and as the price drops, the fee can be increased.
It will be used to help poor neighborhoods.
“It is anticipated that monies will be designated to boost the grant program fund as the Social Equity funds increase,” she said. “New Jersey can set a model for other states regarding how revenue should be spent and who should benefit directly.”
“Those most affected by the War on Drugs, they still face significant barriers to entry,” Nash added.
She said the levels of minorities and women in executive positions in the cannabis are low, which they would like to address.
Social Program Suggestions
Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana (M4MM) NJ Co-Director Nichelle Santos said they want the industry to be diverse.
She wanted the Social Equity Excise fee revenue to go to issues, restorative social justice, police reform with cultural competence, and economic infrastructure development of underserved communities. Santos said there should also be more K-12 programs in smaller classes. She also advocated for cannabis grants for minority entrepreneurs.
“Cannabis tax revenue should be directed towards proving solar panels to pub libraries. Pub libs have many functions,” Matthew Rebel said.
He said they provide computers and books that help people learn and get jobs.
Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities for the NJ School Age Child Care Coalition Tyneisha Gibbs wanted money for after-school programs.
“After-school programs provide a substantial return on investment,” she said.
Gibbs said thousands would participate in such programs if they existed. She said other states fund after-school programs with state-legal adult-use cannabis tax revenue. Gibbs argued it keeps teenagers out of trouble.
Edward “Lefty” Grimes of Sativa Cross wanted money to go to providing wheelchair access to public buildings.
“I would like to see social equity for people like Anthony Diaz. He was a Black man put in chains recently for growing cannabis for cancer. He was growing 50 plants in his backyard. People like Anthony Diaz need a legal defense fund,” he added.
Lifting Up Communities
“The funds need to be allocated to the severely underfunded Black communities of New Jersey,” Jersey City conditional dispensary license holder in Venus Smith said. “Invest $6,000 for every Black child to withdraw portions of the funds to purchase assets … or to be used for unseen emergencies.”
She also wanted those expunged crimes to have a path to homeownership, including a generous amount of money.
“It would be great to see New Jersey use the funds to close the astronomical wealth gap and be the first state to truly achieve economic equality,” she argued.
“Law enforcement should not benefit from us. And anything we can do to help people stay healthy, I’m all for. Whether you’re growing medicine or anything, please help them,” cannabis activist Jeff King of Eatontown said.