Social justice advocacy organizations held a rally outside the New Jersey Statehouse demanding that cannabis tax revenue be equitably distributed.
“We can be a leader in how we begin to repair the harms of marijuana criminalization,” ACLU advocate Ami Kachalia said.
She explained they are adamant against cannabis tax revenue going to fund the police.
The specific list of towns where that money goes remains an interesting issue.
NJ Prison Justice Watch Co-chair Nafeesa Goldsmith described how cops pointed guns in her face and those of her grandmother when they raided their home.
“We’re not asking for any handouts,” she said.
Goldsmith lamented the current system of regulations in the New Jersey adult-use cannabis industry whereby industry experts say it takes more than $700,000 to open a dispensary.
“We want to get in on this on our own,” she said.
“When I saw the application for the cannabis license I said once again, we’re deterring Black people from the process,” Goldsmith said.
Using strident rhetoric she lamented the lack of affordable consultants willing to help People of Color secure adult-use cannabis licenses.
Goldsmith was very insistent on getting help for the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs.
She had many ideas on how it could be used including “being able to teach members of our community horticulture so they can do what? Grow their own cannabis. We have community gardens. Why not cannabis community gardens? We’re talking about building our own economy,” Goldsmith said.
A community garden usually is not a for-profit venture but rather could be seen as a collective homegrow, which remains a severe crime. People could also be taught to grow to get a job.
“You want us to go put our money in them. Well, I believe in choking the system. Don’t give them a dime,” Goldsmith said.
“You get no money till we get ours. I believe in the Prophet Jay Z. Fuck you pay me,” she said.
“We want what’s ours. We’re taking that money,” Goldsmith said without specifying how that would take place.
“The War on Drugs snatched us from home,” Andre Hinder of the Newark Community Street Team said.
He noted this created many men raised without fathers, including himself.
“Find them a place to congregate instead of in front of our businesses,” Hinder said about the cannabis tax revenue money.
“We need to make sure they’re listening,” Kachalia said about the legislature. “Not just today but tomorrow and the next day until we get what we want which is the money that belongs to us.”
“How will the reinvestment of those funds impact communities and non-impact zones?” Cuqui Rivera of the Latino Action Network (on whose board I serve full disclosure) asked.
She lamented the power of towns to block cannabis companies from opening within their borders.
“You can’t reinvest when what you did was stole! You stole Black children! You stole Black bodies! You stole our opportunity for jobs! You stole our opportunity for housing! ” Rev. Charles Boyer of Salvation and Social Justice said. “This is reparations! You owe us!”
He called the legislators whom they presumably need to charm for the cannabis tax revenue “jokers.”
“We’re not asking, we’re taking,” Boyer said. “You need to write checks.”
Kachalia said the state budget “is getting decided now and will be decided on finally by the end of June. We have a lot of work to do to make the voices heard today continue to be the voices heard.”
Grassroots Advocacy for Cannabis Tax Revenue
In addition to the rally, the ACLU of New Jersey blasted its listserv urging people to write emails to their legislators to “Create an inclusive and participatory process for communities hit hardest by cannabis criminalization on how cannabis revenue should be spent.”
“Hold more public hearings and conduct outreach to community groups. Publicly share how community reinvestment funds will be allocated. Ensure that cannabis revenue promised for community reinvestment does not go to law enforcement, criminal legal system stakeholders, or other related programs,” it continued.
“New Jersey can be a national leader in prioritizing reinvestment in communities hit hardest by prohibition, but we can only succeed if we maintain our focus on equity, inclusivity, and racial justice,” their email said.