New Jersey Cities’ Restrictive Marijuana Licensing Policies Are Undermining Legalization’s Equity Aims (Op-Ed)

New Jersey Cities’ Restrictive Marijuana Licensing Policies Are Undermining Legalization’s Equity Aims (Op-Ed)
MJ moment

“In many ways, municipalities hold the fate of statewide social equity efforts in their hands.” By Jessica Gonzales and Joe Johnson, New Jersey Monitor New Jersey made history on November 3, 2020, when more than 67 percent of voters approved adult-use cannabis legalization via ballot initiative. With that vote, residents passed the baton to legislators to hammer out the details, then to regulators to set statewide rules for implementation, and, finally, to New Jersey’s 565 municipalities to set their own rules, beginning with whether to opt in or out of allowing cannabis establishments. Municipalities are the driving force in determining whether legalization will live up to its potential for equity and racial justice, or whether it becomes a missed opportunity that favors the rich and powerful. It’s imperative that municipalities adopt policies to reinvest in communities and create meaningful, inclusive opportunities for New Jerseyans. New Jersey’s legislative and regulatory framework broke new ground for justice, with a deliberately non-competitive licensing scheme; no caps imposed on number of micro-cultivation, manufacturing, and retail licenses; relatively low application fees, beginning at $100; and priority application status for communities most harmed by prohibition. Importantly, the law stipulates that 100 percent of the discretionary cultivation excise fee and 70 percent of retail tax revenue must be appropriated for community reinvestment in municipalities defined as impact zones, a monumental step toward addressing the harms of the drug war, which disproportionately targeted communities of color, especially Black communities. Municipalities have authority in their towns over the number and types of licenses awarded, business locations, application fees, and criteria to satisfy the legal requirement for “proof of local support.” All municipalities that opt in have the power to implement a maximum two percent cannabis sales tax to support local initiatives. Some municipalities, like Jersey City, have dedicated that…

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Source : New Jersey Cities’ Restrictive Marijuana Licensing Policies Are Undermining Legalization’s Equity Aims (Op-Ed)

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