New Jersey Assembly Committee Votes Yes to Implement Cannabis Legalization

Advocates say the move is making strides in community reinvestment, but prompting continued work toward equity measures.

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PRESS RELEASE - Following a vote in a key Senate committee, a “yes” vote on A21, a bill to implement the constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis in New Jersey advanced in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, bringing New Jersey a full floor vote away from heading to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk for final approval.

RELATED: New Jersey Senate Committee Advances Cannabis Legalization Legislation

The new version of A21/S21 includes significant community reinvestment provisions through two income streams dedicated to social and racial justice: 100% of the cultivator excise tax and 70% of the sales tax to fund reinvestment into communities hit hardest by the drug war, which has disproportionately targeted Black and brown communities.

The bill also reinstates a severe cap on the number of licenses, awarding only 37 cultivator licenses for the first 24 months after the bill is enacted. The bill did not include several important justice measures, such as: restoring dedicated funding for expungement, limiting random workplace drug testing, and, crucially, closing a loophole that allows well-resourced businesses to claim and benefit from impact zone applicant status rather than residents.

ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha said, “The Assembly Committee’s vote sends cannabis legalization to a full floor vote that can make history for its strides forward in community investment, with 70% of sales tax revenue and 100% of the excise tax going toward those communities hit hardest by the racially inequitable drug war. The current bill leaves advocates’ work unfinished, and we will continue our push for a legalization scheme that addresses the injustices of cannabis prohibition and builds an inclusive industry at every level.

“We thank Assembly members Annette Quijano and Jamel Holley and all the sponsors and lawmakers who informed the tax allocation and prioritized community interests. For this reinvestment to fulfill its potential, community input is paramount, and we call on legislators and regulators to centralize those important community voices in decisions about resources.

“We recognize the strides taken to build equity into this bill, and we know that the work toward justice is just beginning. While the work is unfinished, we applaud the Assembly Appropriations Committee for releasing the bill. We will work just as intently for regulations and future legislation that get us closer to an inclusive, equitable industry and justice for communities of color across the state.

“We must do all we can to make sure the injustices and racism that defined prohibition do not simply migrate to legalization, and that means building an inclusive and equitable industry with intentionality. New Jerseyans overwhelmingly voted to legalize cannabis to confront the injustices wrought by prohibition, and the legislature must meaningfully begin to repair the racially inequitable harms of the drug war. The significant funding for community investment is one of the most important steps in that pursuit, and we will continue to push for other measures that can advance equity."