When it comes to how New Jersey should invest tax revenue generated from the state’s rapidly growing legalized cannabis market, many believe education and public health initiatives should be priorities, according to a new poll.
Under the law in New Jersey – which is now home to 21 recreational dispensaries and counting – at least 70% of all tax revenue, including all social equity excise fee (SEEF) revenue, is supposed to be invested in “impact zones,” defined as cities with high crime indexes and unemployment rates.
Based on public feedback the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has received so far, as well as the SEEF revenue projections, the state plans to invest funding in grants and low-interest loans for aspiring entrepreneurs in impact zones and economically disadvantaged areas who are looking to break into the cannabis market.
A newly released Rutgers-Eagleton Poll found New Jerseyans think the revenue should be allocated to the following areas:
- education (23%)
- community and public health initiatives, such as drug treatment centers (21%)
- affordable housing development (15%)
- transportation and infrastructure (13%)
- police, courts and prisons (11%)
- campaigns on substance use dangers (4%)
Conducted in partnership with researchers from Rutgers University and Drexel University, the poll surveyed 1,006 adults between Aug. 30, 2022, and Sept. 8, 2022, and has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.
Ashley Koning, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, noted that while the CRC has held public hearings on how to spend the revenue, there is “no better way to assess what the public thinks than by taking a representative sample of all New Jerseyans.”
Nathan Link, assistant professor and graduate director in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Rutgers–Camden, commented, “This is a big deal and a needed conversation.”
“What sets this legislation apart from that of the other states that have legalized and decriminalized cannabis are the critical benefits for social and racial justice that arise from implementing a permanent funding structure that potentially targets schools, health, and the well-being of people living in New Jersey’s most disadvantaged communities,” Link stated.
Since the debut of New Jersey’s legalized cannabis industry in April 2022, about $225,000 has been collected in SEEF revenue. For Fiscal Year 2023, the CRC anticipates approximately $3.5 million of revenue to be raised by the SEEF, which is $1.52 per ounce on all cannabis sold.