NJ wants your input on how to spend marijuana tax dollars to improve communities
There's one more chance to speak live to the people who are crafting the rules of New Jersey's cannabis market, about how tax dollars from the industry should be spent.
The third of three virtual meetings, hosted by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Zoom. Registration to speak closes at 5 p.m. Tuesday, but the commission is accepting written comments through the end of the week.
The public hearings are specifically meant to gather ideas on how funds raised from cannabis fees and funds should be used for social equity projects. Seventy percent of all tax revenue from retail sales of cannabis items will go toward investments in impact zones, socially and economically disadvantaged municipalities that were harmed by the war on drugs.
"The CRC also used its authority from the CREAMM Act to establish a social equity excise fee on personal cannabis cultivators to add even more revenue that can be used for social equity investments," Commissioner Charles Barker told attendees of the Mar. 2 public hearing.
About 20 individuals spoke during the most recent hearing. Each hearing has a two-hour runtime.
"Definitely black maternal health is a major issue," Pastor Charles Boyer, director of Salvation and Social Justice, told commissioners. "Also, revitalizing a lot of the blighted spaces and housing stock in order to create community spaces."
Racquel Romans-Henry, from the same group, suggested that reinvestment begin with a deep dive into schools in impact zones.
"The money for the excise fee should not be spent on law enforcement," she added. "Law enforcement already secures a significant amount of state funding. What we are calling for are significant community investments into harm reduction services."
Earl Brown, of OCM Advisory Group in Montclair, recommends that funding be used to initiate "entrepreneurship ecosystems" in Black and Brown communities.
"If we consider the recreational cannabis industry as a growth industry, this is an opportunity for those communities to get in on the ground floor," Brown said.
By no later than April 30, the NJ-CRC needs to make its spending recommendations to the New Jersey Legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy.
"We are listening to you," said Commissioner Krista Nash. "We need more people to step up ... and tell us your ideas."