All that New Jersey tax revenue. Credit: Giorgio Trovato / Unsplash

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission hosted two virtual meetings this month, with one more scheduled, to provide an opportunity for public comment on how money raised from cannabis fees should be delegated for social equity initiatives.

“We want to make sure the reinvestment goes to help impacted communities,” said Ami Kachalia of the ACLU New Jersey. “And to help the people live there thrive.”

Kachalia was one of numerous advocate groups that testified on how the money should be spent. No public speaker during the North Jersey meeting expressed support for reinvestment into law enforcement.

“There are a variety of options, from education to transportation,” Kachalia continued. “Often times, built into these ballot initiatives is spending for law enforcement and it’s built into New Jersey as well, along with drug recognition expert funding in there.

“Historically there has been funding to enforce laws. Here in New Jersey we have spent more than a billion dollars on just law enforcement and costs for marijuana laws.

“As we see investment increase in policing and other law enforcement pieces, we have seen massive disinvestment in other places. That is where the concern comes from.”

The second meeting, held last week, focused on Central Jersey, with the March 16 date slated for South Jersey.

The Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Assistance and Market Modernization act, passed in Feb. 2021, was developed to allow the CRC to monitor activity associated with the medical cannabis market and the upcoming adult use market. The CREAMM Act allows the state to reinvest funds, 70 percent of tax revenue, for support of designated impact zones.

“For me, success for using these dollars will be measured by how well communities most harmed by the failed war on drugs are provided transformative opportunities for economic growth, generational wealth, and improved living standards,” said Commissioner Charles Barker via a press release. “I look forward to listening to the ideas residents and organizations bring to us for making lives better across New Jersey.”

Commissioner Barker presented options for the money during a slide-show, taking a blueprint from other states. Among those possible uses for the money were legal aid, rehab services, educational support, food assistance and youth recreation.

He did not mention funding for law enforcement initiatives.

“It’s such an exciting opportunity to have money for community reinvestments,” said Kachalia. “We were excited to see that a significant portion from cannabis is for community investment.

“We remain committed to make sure it gets to those communities. We have talked to partners and we all have distinct ideas and we want to make sure they have a real say in the process.”

During the March 9th event, Executive Director of the CRC Jeff Brown stated that these meetings will continue to be held every year.

“It’s wonderful that the CRC is hosting these regional meetings,” said Jacqueline Ferraro, a managing director with the Cannabis Advisory Group. “That sort of interaction is very much welcomed and needed.”