Make New Jersey’s cannabis market accessible + inclusive

To Members of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission,

As a New Jersey resident that is committed to ensuring that cannabis legalization is implemented in a way that centers racial and social justice, I am writing today to submit a public comment regarding the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission's proposed final regulations to govern the State's cannabis industry.

After decades of marijuana criminalization and disproportionate harm to Black and brown communities across the state, New Jersey took the historic step of legalizing cannabis in February 2021, with the aim of building an inclusive and equitable industry. Now, more than 18 months after legalization was signed into law and four months after the start of cannabis sales, it is more important than ever that we remain committed to the racial and social justice goals of legalization and decriminalization.

I applaud the CRC for the steps it has taken to create a more accessible industry – particularly prioritizing the review of applications from individuals from economically disadvantaged areas, those with prior cannabis-related convictions, and diversely owned businesses. However, creating a truly equitable marketplace that reflects the diversity of the state requires a comprehensive effort, including funding, technical assistance, and other resources. In the absence of a robust effort, New Jersey will, unfortunately, follow in the footsteps of other states that have been unable to establish an accessible industry.

I am urging you to build an inclusive and equitable cannabis industry by adopting the ACLU of New Jersey's recommendations, including to:

  • Dedicate significant funding to social equity and diversely owned applicants in the form of grants or no-interest/low-interest loans, following the example of New York's newly created $200 million equity fund. Lack of access to capital remains a key barrier to entry for many individuals aiming to start and grow a cannabis business.
  • Create technical assistance programs, fee waivers, and other resources to help social equity and diversely owned applicants navigate the application process.
  • Establish employment and mentorship programs directed toward social equity and impact zone applicants and diversely owned businesses.
  • Ensure systems tracking the purchase of retail cannabis have stringent data privacy protections to prevent adverse immigration consequences for noncitizens.
  • Provide guidelines to encourage municipalities to set policies that prioritize equity in the local industry, including removing licensing caps, reducing municipal fees, and creating municipal equity programs.
  • Allocate funding and support for the Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans, and Women Cannabis Business Development to surpass the goal in the legislation of 15 percent ownership by minority business owners and 15 percent ownership by disabled veterans and women.
  • Proactively conduct inclusive public education and outreach and solicit input from communities harmed most by cannabis prohibition when adopting regulations and developing advisory recommendations to the New Jersey Legislature on the use of revenue collected from the Social Equity Excise Fee.

Thank you for your consideration of these recommendations and your partnership in building an inclusive and equitable cannabis marketplace in New Jersey.