Social Equity Excise Fee Revenue Should Support Those Harmed Most by Cannabis Prohibition

Testimony from Senior Policy Analyst Marleina Ubel before the Cannabis Regulatory Commission in support of equitable distribution of SEEF funds.

Published on Mar 27, 2024 in Public Safety

Good morning, Chairwoman Houenou, Vice-Chairman Delgado, and Commissioners of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC). Thank you for this opportunity to share my testimony.

I’m Marleina Ubel, a senior policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), a nonpartisan think tank dedicated to championing economic, social, and racial justice for New Jersey residents.

The Social Equity Excise Fee (SEEF) is more than just a financial measure; it’s a vital step towards rectifying the injustices inflicted by the War on Drugs. We’ve seen families torn apart, economic opportunities stifled, and communities of color disproportionately affected by draconian drug policies. The revenue generated by this fee should, under no circumstances, be given to law enforcement agencies, which were the very entities that caused the most harm enforcing cannabis prohibition. Law enforcement already receives the lion’s share of public safety funding even though other social service professions, such as public and mental health professionals, school counselors, and social workers are just as important to public safety.

SEEF revenue must be distributed back not just to municipal governments, but to promoting stronger, safer, and more resilient communities, recognizing substance use as a matter of public health. Crucially, those directly impacted by the War on Drugs must have a voice in how these funds are utilized. We must ensure more legitimate stakeholding.

NJPP advocates for a diverse range of uses for SEEF revenue, from community programs to harm reduction services, acknowledging the successes of states like Colorado, where similar funds have bolstered education, mental health services, and homelessness prevention.

I want to specifically highlight harm reduction services because although the budget is expected to generously fund the programming in Fiscal Year 2025, those funds are a result of the opioid settlement and to maintain this level of funding in the future, the state will need a sustainable revenue stream.

Finally, given the importance of this fee, the CRC should move to increase it — setting SEEF at the maximum allowed by statute, which would still keep New Jersey among some of the lowest taxes on cannabis in the country. However, let’s be clear: equitable distribution is paramount. Municipalities must prioritize racial justice and reparations for those most affected by the War on Drugs. Anything less would betray the very essence of the SEEF’s purpose.

Thank you for your attention.

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