New Jersey to include ‘social equity’ tax in marijuana bill

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TRENTON, N.J. (1010 WINS) -- Bills by both the state Senate and Assembly to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey would include a new "social equity" tax that would benefit communities of color disproportionately affected by aggressive law enforcement.

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission would be allowed to impose an optional “social equity excise fee” for programs seeking to help reduce disparities caused by drug laws.

“We’ve spelled out the communities that we look for this money to be invested in,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney said during a roundtable discussion Monday, reports. “I think we made our intentions very clear in the Senate.”

Initially, the legislationproposed that marijuana sales be subjected to the 6.625 percent state tax which was then increased to 7 percent last month, the Asbury Park Press reported.

The Senate wants 70 percent of the sales tax revenue, plus all of the social equity fee, to go toward funding community programs, while the Assembly version only calls for the sales tax being put toward those program after social equity funding was sought by the state Legislative Black Caucus among other advocates.

“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.”

Last month, New Jersey overwhelmingly voted to legaliz reecreational weed in the state for adults 21 and older with conflicting Legislature over details including how many licenses to hand out to weed cultivators and an amendment to ease penalties for possession of psychedelic mushrooms, as part of decriminalization bill.

The Assembly and Senate must pass identical versions of the bill by Jan. 1 before it can be signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy.