State Watch

New Jersey lawmakers include ‘social equity’ tax in marijuana legalization bill

Both versions of a New Jersey bill legalizing marijuana legalization would include a “social equity” tax to address the disparate effect of anti-marijuana laws on communities of color.

Both the state Senate and Assembly’s measures would authorize the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to impose a “social equity excise fee,” with the revenues going to programs that work to offset drug law-related disparities.

“We’ve spelled out the communities that we look for this money to be invested in,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) said Monday in a roundtable discussion, according to Trenton-area radio station 1010 WINS. “I think we made our intentions very clear in the Senate.”

The chambers are divided on what percentage of tax revenue will go toward funding such programs. The Senate’s version calls for directing all of the social equity fee and 70 percent of sales tax revenue from marijuana sales toward such initiatives, while the Assembly’s language would only put the sales tax toward them, according to 1010 WINS.

“A key component of cannabis legalization is addressing social justice concerns,” Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D) said in a November statement. “The fact that Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges has contributed to the disenfranchisement of [Black] communities.”

“We want to make sure that [decriminalization] is a priority,” Richard Todd Edwards, political action chair of the NAACP in New Jersey said during the roundtable, according to “There’s real concerns with police interactions still over small amounts of marijuana.”

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) has ordered an end to low-level marijuana prosecutions in the state but has not instructed police to end possession arrests. The decriminalization bill would end such arrests, according to the outlet.

The chambers also continue to disagree on whether to impose limits on the number of licenses to sell marijuana issued by the state. While the Senate version would do away with such limits, the Assembly’s version would limit the state to 37 licenses in the first two years.


Tags New Jersey

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