New Jersey residents recently voted in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana. According to the New York Post, the state is now taking steps to reach legalization through a bill. This bill will include a social equity tax that seeks to protect and benefit communities of color that have been negatively affected by the prohibition of cannabis.
This was discussed in the Marijuana Legalization & Social Justice Roundtable, which was participated by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Senators Nicholas Scutari who sponsored the legalization bill, Sandra Cunningham who sponsored the decriminalization bill, Public Defender Joseph Krekora, NAACP New Jersey Conference Richard Todd Edwards, NJ State Bar Association Kimberly Yonta, NJ AFL-CIO coordinator Christian Estevez.
Both the Senate and Assembly have started bills that permit the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to promote the “social equity excise fee,” which seeks to cover initiatives that can alleviate racial disparities, especially in the cannabis industry. The fee was pushed by the Legislative Black Caucus and other advocates of social equity.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney said, “We’ve spelled out the communities that we look for this money to be invested in. I think we made our intentions very clear in the Senate.” The legislative body has suggested that cannabis sales should be placed under a tax plan that imposes a 6.625% state rate. This rate then increased to 7% in November.
According to the Senate, 70% of the sales tax revenue combined with the social equity fee should go to community funding programs. On the other hand, the Assembly only asks that the fee should be funneled toward such plans.
In a statement, Caucus and Assembly member Jamel Holley said, “A key component of cannabis legalization is addressing social justice concerns. 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.”
As per a report by The Hill, this is largely supported by other organizations such as the NAACP in New Jersey chaired by Richard Todd Edwards who said, “We want to make sure that (decriminalization) is a priority. There’s a real concern with police interactions still over small amounts of marijuana.”
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal also said that low-level marijuana possession should not be prosecuted. However, he did not mention that the police should end possession arrests. A decriminalization bill is expected to end the arrests related to possession.
This comes as part of the process of legalizing recreational marijuana after the November vote. Part of the details is the number of licenses to be granted. The Hill noted that the Senate wants to remove such restrictions, while the Assembly is looking at 37 licenses within the first couple of years.
However, the Assembly and the Senate have been arguing regarding the modification of the relaxation of penalties for psychedelic mushroom possessions. The Senate wants to peg the limit at 6 ounces of cannabis. Meanwhile, the Assembly has been shelving the matter.