New Jersey’s Assembly Bill 21 (NJ A21) legalizes personal use cannabis for certain adults (subject to State regulation), decriminalizes small amount marijuana and hashish possession, and removes marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. The law also establishes an Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans, and Women [Medical] Cannabis Business Development, which will focus on “promoting participation by persons from socially and economically disadvantaged communities, including by prospective and existing ownership of minority businesses and women’s businesses.” Additionally, the law requires at least 70% of all tax revenues on retail sales to go to investments, including grants, loans, reimbursement of expenses, and other financial assistance, to municipalities defined as “impact zones,” or, “any census tract that ranks in the top 33 percent of census tracts in the State for marijuana-related arrests and that ranks in the bottom 33 percent of census tracts in the State for median household income.”
NJ A21 also requires the commission to conduct a disparity study to determine whether race-based measures should be considered when issuing permits, and the commission shall seek to issue at least 30% of the total number of new medical cannabis cultivator permits, medical cannabis manufacturer permits, and medical cannabis dispensary permits as follows: at least 15% of the total number of permits must be issued to certified minority businesses; and at least 15% of the total number of permits must be issued to certified women’s businesses or disabled-veterans’ businesses. The commission shall grant a higher preference to applicants with up to two of those certifications. Minority businesses are defined here and are explicitly race-based.