Measures in the state's Senate and Assembly would authorize the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to impose a “social equity excise fee." Revenue from the tax would fund programs that work to offset racial and drug-related disparities.
“We’ve spelled out the communities that we look for this money to be invested in,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, said Monday during a roundtable discussion, according to NJ.com. “I think we made our intentions very clear in the Senate.”
Initially, the legislation called for a 6.625% state tax on marijuana sales, but the amount was raised to 7% last month, according to the Asbury Park Press.
The chambers are still divided on what percentage of tax revenue should go toward the programs: The Senate has proposed directing all of the social equity fee and 70% of all sales tax revenue toward such initiatives, while the Assembly would only direct sales tax toward the programs, NJ.com reported.
Advocates, including the Legislative Black Caucus, pushed for the social equity funding.
“A key component of cannabis legalization is addressing social justice concerns,” Assemblyman and caucus member Jamel Holley said in a statement last month. “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.”
New Jersey voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum in November legalizing recreational marijuana in the state for adults 21 and older.
The state's attorney general, Democrat Gurbir Grewal, 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.